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Warriors - Jazz

Did Dick Stockton even watch a basketball game this year?

The whole "I can't believe the Jazz are playing this style" thing was cute and all, but it's like he was still seeing John Stockton and those short-shorts in his head.  The Jazz averaged 101.5 points per game this season, and were the third most efficient offense in the league behind Phoenix and Dallas.  Was I a little surprised that they decided to try to outrun the Warriors?  Sure, a little, especially after Jerry Sloan sandbagged everyone before the game.  But I wasn't shocked.

I was however shocked at how good Deron Williams was.  (I guess everyone can stop criticizing the Williams over Paul pick; Marvin Williams over either of those guys, when you're Atlanta and you desperately need a point guard - well, you can criticize that one.)  It was absolutely brilliant to push the ball right back at Baron.  At one point, after Baron had scored, the camera was following him back up court as his "I'm a bad ass" scowl suddenly disappeared when he realized that the blur that went by him was Williams on his way to a layup.  The Warriors cocky attitude will be a little deflated if they have to play defense right away, during the time that Dallas let them woof.

Back in the late 80's when Paul Westhead was coaching Bo Kimble and the late Hank Gathers at Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine beat the Lions a couple different times, playing an up tempo game and taking the easy shots that the LMU defense gave them.  When the Lions made their NCAA run (without their best player) to the Elite Eight, teams with SIGNIFICANTLY more talent were losing to them because their coaches had turned their world upside down.  Instead of taking WIDE OPEN LAYUPS, Alabama, a team featuring future NBA players Robert Horry, David Benoit and Keith Askins, was 'working the shot clock' to slow the game down.  They slowed the game down - and LMU won 62-60.

Does it make sense to get into a 'track meet' with the Warriors?  It's open to debate. (In the same tournament run, the Lions beat a Michigan team with Loy Vaught and Rumeal Robinson 149-115).  But I don't think there's any sense in artificially icing the ball.  Especially in the NBA, with a 24 second clock, if you go out of your way to walk it up and play slow, you're going to find yourself working against a short shot clock way too frequently.  It's much better to maintain at least your normal pace, and look for good shots early in the clock.

I also think that the Warriors defense works best against a deliberate offensive pace.  They're basically playing a match up zone, trapping the ball and scrambling to recover.  In order to take advantage of the openings that defense gives you, you have to react quickly and attack.  Coaches seem to think they've accomplished something if they get out of a trap and reset the offense.  All they've accomplished is wasting 18 out of 24 seconds they have to shoot.

Despite the success of the Jazz game plan in game 1, let's not write off the Warriors yet.  Yes, this was, on paper, a game they could steal.  They were more rested than the Jazz, and with Fisher missing, Utah were hurting at the 2.  But let's face it - that's the least important position for the Jazz, so although there's a drop off to Giricek, it's not like Fish is the player he was 5 years ago.  So, sure, I get it, the Warriors wanted to win this one, but there will be other opportunities to win in SLC.

They had a wide open three to take the lead with under 10 seconds remaining on the road.  So if you're the Warriors, you have a lot of confidence going into game 2 that you can beat these guys - Baron's got to take Deron Williams more seriously, and everyone's got to box out.  Other than that, the defensive scheme on Boozer (guarding him with guys giving away about 50 pounds) worked pretty well.  He was 6-15 in the game, and at least 3 of those makes were off of the offensive glass.  So Utah's leading scorer was a non-factor in the set offense.  Keeping him off the offensive glass won't be easy - but that's the task.

Whatever happens, it's going to be fun.  I still have Warrors in 6.