OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Utah Jazz know they might have to contend with the Golden State Warriors again on the big playoff stage.
A different version of the defending champions by then, most certainly – a far healthier version.
Rudy Gobert had 17 points and 15 rebounds and the Jazz pulled away from the undermanned, injury-plagued Warriors in the third quarter on the way to a 110-91 victory Sunday night.
Utah wants to make sure the rest of the regular season goes smoothly before thinking too far ahead.
“We know it could be a rematch,” Gobert said of another playoff series after Golden State swept the Jazz in last year’s Western Conference semifinals. “We’re focused on the moment.”
Quinn Cook had 17 points and eight assists as defending champion Golden State played without its four injured All-Stars and was forced to use yet another makeshift starting lineup.
Before the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr ruled out Stephen Curry for the first round of the playoffs because of a sprained left knee – while Curry vowed to do everything in his rehab power to prove Kerr wrong and return sooner.
This marked just the second time Golden State played without its four All-Stars after Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all sat for a 107-85 loss on March 11, 2017, at San Antonio. But, that time, Durant was the lone injured one of the group rehabbing a left knee injury while the other three simply rested.
“I thought we hung in there pretty well,” Kerr said. “We just didn’t have enough firepower, but I like the way we fought.”
Green had been set to return Sunday, but was ruled out with flu-like symptoms.
Kerr expects both Durant and Green back as soon as Tuesday against Indiana, while noting “Klay’s coming along well” as he nurses a fractured right thumb.
“Well, we’ve got to hold down the fort,” Kerr said. “We’ve got enough. We’re blessed with a great roster, a lot of depth and so, let’s get going. Let’s play and let’s compete and hold down the fort. There’s no reason why we can’t come out and really play well down the stretch and be ready for the playoffs and then maybe we get Steph back and we’ll see what happens.”
Cook went to the locker room late in the half after two crashing drives but returned for the third quarter, when the Warriors shot 8 for 20.
Golden State began the game 5 for 16, but Utah was just 4 of 16.