Utah checked a lot of boxes from their pregame scouting report. The tempo was slowed. Gordon Hayward was making plays and finished with 29 points. Rudy Gobert had a huge game with 21 points, 15 boards, and a couple blocks. The Jazz defended the arc well and the Warriors shot 9-of-30 from deep (30 percent). Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 7-of-29 shooting.
And it wasn’t enough.
Because the Warriors have Kevin Durant. This is why they went after him. On a night Curry and Thompson were cold, in one of the most hostile environments he had seen all season, Durant owned Utah on the pick-and-roll all game. That kept the Warriors in it most of the night allowed him to take over late in the fourth, finishing with 38 points.
Golden State went on a 17-5 run midway through the fourth and pulled away for a 102-91 win and now lead Utah 3-0. Game 4 is Monday in Utah.
The Warriors got a lot of quality offense having Gobert’s man set a screen for Durant with the ball, because the Utah defense calls for Gobert to play back off the ball.
“If whoever Gobert is guarding sets a solid screen, KD’s going to come off wide open,” Warriors coach Mike Brown said. “KD can shoot from 25 feet, 17 feet, or get to the rim it doesn’t matter. So that puts Gobert in a perdicerment, we’ve got a seven footer who is coming at him downhill.”
Gobert actually did a good job when Durant drove, he was just 4-of-10 shooting in the paint. However, his jumper was falling and Durant was 7-of-8 from the midrange and 4-of-8 from three.
Durant and Gobert event got into it a little after a play, one where Gobert pushed Durant out of the way going for a board and Durant came back with a shove. That got Durant a Flagrant 1.
In spite of Durant’s heroics, this was another game where the Jazz defense was good, but they couldn’t generate enough offense against the Warriors defense. Utah shot just 39 percent as a team, and if you take Hayward and Gobert out of the equation the rest of the Jazz shot 31.4 percent.
Still, that felt like it would be enough for a while.
After a slow start by both teams — Warriors started 4-of-10 and the Jazz 2-of-8 — the Warriors pulled away for a double-digit lead. Then the Jazz played their best quarter of the series. Utah took its first lead for the first time in the series 48-47 when Rodney Hood buried a wide-open corner three with 1:01 left in the second quarter. It didn’t last long, but they regained the lead before the half on a couple of Gobert free throws and led 50-49.
At the start of the second half Hayward knocked down a three, the Jazz got some stops and makes, but could never pull away. Mostly because Durant — Curry/Thompson/Draymond Green had combined for just 21 points on 30 shots through three quarters.
Still, the Warriors led by two. It was a bad omen. JaVale McGee gave the Warriors good minutes in the fourth as well, the 17-5 run came led by Durant, and it was all over.
This is exactly why the Warriors brought in Durant.