1. Will the Warriors continue pursuit of fo’, fo’, fo’, fo’ postseason?
Golden State added Kevin Durant to a 73-win team.
A mere championship won’t satisfy all the outsized expectations created by that combination.
There’s a decent amount of chatter about Golden State going 16-0 in these playoffs. Sweeping the Trail Blazers kept the dream alive, but the Jazz are a much bigger test.
Sweeping Utah – a team that could beat the Warriors if it catches enough breaks – will require much more focus, and there are already signs of slippage. Will the Warriors lock down, or are they just too talented anyway?
2. Who controls the pace?
The Warriors are one of the league’s fastest-paced teams. The Jazz are the slowest.
Just how extreme is the split?
Golden State had 37 faster-paced games than Utah’s fastest. Utah had 33 slower-paced games than Golden State’s second slowest.
The Warriors can play slow, and the Jazz can play fast. But neither team wants to give in here.
It’s probably more important for the underdog Jazz to win this battle. Otherwise, they run out of areas to seek an edge.
To dictate the tempo, Utah will need to keep Rudy Gobert on the court. Golden State has excelled at running traditional centers off the floor, but Gobert has moved his feet well enough to compete in the pick-and-roll and allow his paint protection to shine. Will that hold up if the Warriors relentlessly pull Gobert into pick-and-rolls? Is Gobert healthy enough to withstand the coming onslaught?
3. Will the Warriors miss Steve Kerr?
Durant returned against Portland, and Golden State’s other player injuries – Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes – are relatively minor
Kerr is the great unknown – not just for his unclear medical prognosis, but because a great team losing its head coach in the playoffs is uncharted waters.
The Warriors cruised last season with Luke Walton, but the regular season is a different animal. Kerr can help game-plan behind the scenes to aid Mike Brown, as the head coach did for Walton.
But there will come a time in the playoffs where Golden State – with high-profile Draymond Green, Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – faces adversity within a game. Kerr has managed those personalities so well in those heated moments. Will Brown? Or will Kerr return in time to do it himself?
I’m not sure whether the test will come against Utah, but it could.