SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Golden State Warriors have cruised so easily through the six games of the playoffs that the biggest challenge, so far, may have been themselves.
The reigning Western Conference champions are a perfect 6-0 with Game 3 against the Utah Jazz on Saturday. The lone disappointment during a pair of double-digit wins has been allowing the Jazz to creep back into games after jumping out to big leads.
“There’s a lot of things we can do better and we have to continue to think that way or get more of a thirst to want to play perfect,” Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said. “When we don’t, we should be upset. I feel like our intentions are good, but we have to have the thirst to want to be like a machine and just try to destroy everything.
“We have to compete against ourselves. We can’t compete against the score. I think that is one of our biggest weaknesses, is seeing the scoreboard and getting too comfortable.”
The Warriors have yet to trail against the Jazz and have forced early first-quarter timeouts from Quin Snyder in both games after sprinting out the gate each time. The Jazz won 51 regular-season games to earn the No. 5 seed with the league’s best defense and upset the Clippers 4-3 in the first round, so this is no lightweight opponent. But Utah has been overwhelmed outside of limited stretches.
Two-time MVP Stephen Curry and acting coach Mike Brown said opponents are going to make their runs, but they’re more concerned with the way the team responds.
“Do you cave?” Curry said. “Do you start pointing fingers at each other? Do you lose energy or do you respond with aggressiveness and confidence that we can get the momentum back on our side?
“I think we’ve answered that pretty well these first two games.”
The Jazz have played with “desperation” during those runs, Snyder said. He sounded similar to Iguodala in that Utah has to find that drive internally instead of letting the game dictate the sense of urgency.
“There’s simple things,” Snyder said. “We have to be more urgent getting back. We have to be more determined offensively to attack so our offense doesn’t affect our defense. It’s very difficult to defend against turnovers.
“They’re so explosive. It’s like a fighter that’s got a left hook and a jab and a right cross. They’re just bam, bam, bam. You better get your gloves up or you better learn to counterpunch. They knock you back and we’ve avoided getting knocked out, but we’ve been behind on the card. Against a team that’s as good as they are, that’s very difficult to overcome.”
Here’s some things to know for Friday’s game:
Warriors at Jazz, Golden State leads 2-0. Game 3, 8:30 p.m., ABC
NEED TO KNOW: Utah is on ledge, but the higher seed is supposed to win the first two games. Gordon Hayward shined with 33 points in the Game 2 loss, but he needs more help from Joe Johnson, who has cooled off from his phenomenal Round 1, Joe Ingles, Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors. The Warriors are going to put up points — even against the regular-season’s best defense— so Utah needs to find more offense to be competitive.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The Golden State defense. The high-scoring offense gets all the attention, but the defense has allowed few easy opportunities for the Jazz. The Warriors’ combination of length, athleticism and basketball IQ has given Utah fits and Snyder said they need to attack aggressively much more often.
INJURY UPDATE: Warriors coach Steve Kerr did not travel to Salt Lake City and was seeing a specialist at Duke University on Friday. The team said he has not been officially ruled out to return this round. Warriors forward Draymond Green did not practice after tweaking his left knee during Game 2. He is listed as probable and is expected to play. Jazz point guard George Hill is likely a game-time decision and was listed as questionable with a left big toe sprain after missing Game 2.
PRESSURE IS ON: Hood. The Jazz guard was 4 for 13 and 0 for 5 from behind the arc in Game 2. Utah needs more points from the perimeter, especially with Hill in doubt. Hood continues to play through a knee injury, but he has elite scoring ability and the Jazz need that now.