OAKLAND (AP) — The Utah Jazz had the slowest pace in the league during the regular season, while the push-it-at-every-chance Golden State Warriors were among the fastest as they tried to establish their tempo from the tip.
That clash of styles even showed up in the first round of the playoffs, as the Jazz needed a Game 7 to get past the Los Angeles Clippers. The Warriors dismantled Portland in a four-game sweep and haven’t played since April 24, waiting to find out their opponent.
“I think we can play both styles. That’s kind of their MO to slow the game down and try to make it a slugfest,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said.
It became a big advantage as Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Co. got well-rested, healthy and ready for the next challenge in their championship chase: those upstart youngsters from Utah in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Tuesday night.
“I don’t mind that we’re young and we’re green,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I just want us to be good. It’s hard to be good against the Warriors but that’s what we’re up against.”
The Jazz are the only team to beat Golden State in the last 20 contests, winning a mostly meaningless regular-season game on April 10 in Oakland.
Repeating that in the playoffs will be much harder but Utah knows what it must do: limit Golden State’s chances in transition, make the Warriors work hard in the half court and find some way to score while grinding it out on the offensive end.
That’s the formula the Jazz have used most of the season while allowing the fewest points and playing the fewest possessions in the NBA.
“For us, the pace with which we play has not been deliberate,” Snyder said. “It’s a deliberate way of playing. It’s more of a function of our personnel.”
Here are some things to watch in the series:
MISSING COACH: The Warriors are now prepared to push on without ailing head coach Steve Kerr perhaps for the remainder of the postseason.
The reigning NBA Coach of the Year is dealing with debilitating symptoms stemming from complications following two back surgeries two years ago after the team’s 2015 championship run.
“The way we look at it, plan on him not to come back,” Green said. “Mike Brown is our coach. We have the rest of our staff and that’s what we’re rolling with.”
FOUL COUNT: The Jazz got very little out of perhaps their most important player in the first round. Rudy Gobert sprained his ankle early in Game 1 and missed the next two games. He then sprained his ankle again late in Game 6 before fouling out in only 13 minutes in Game 7.
Keeping Gobert on the court is paramount for the Jazz after he led the NBA in blocked shots with 2.6 per game in the regular season, while averaging 14 points and 12.8 rebounds.
“It’s hard to figure out a plan for a guy not to foul out in 13 minutes in Game 7 of a playoff series,” Snyder said. “He’s got to be smart. He can’t put himself in positons to pick up silly fouls.”
LONG LAYOFF: Green figures it might take the Warriors a quarter or so to get clicking after not playing in so long.
“The break was good, but sheesh, long,” Green said. “We were pretty banged up. That week break was good for us.”
Durant should be fully healthy from a strained left calf that sidelined him the first three games against the Trail Blazers.
FAVORS’ BACK: The Jazz wouldn’t mind an extra day off mainly to get power forward Derrick Favors healthy. Favors missed practice Monday with a sore lower back and is questionable for Game 1. Favors is coming off one of his best performances of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds in the Game 7 win over the Clippers.
NIGHT LIFE: Some of the Warriors players talked about wishing they were playing the Clippers instead of the Jazz, mostly for the chance to have some time off in Los Angeles rather than Salt Lake City.
Utah forward Joe Ingles has a solution for them.
“They can go to L.A. between the games if they want,” Ingles said. “They have enough money to pay for the jet if they want and come back on game days. If they want the entertainment, they can drive to Vegas, too. I’ll hire the car for them.”
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this report.
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