The Jazz earned two more home playoff games with their Game 7 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers last Sunday, and they need to maximize them. Games 3 and 4 should evoke a celebration of this season and, like them or not, some appreciation for watching the Warriors.
This is an opportunity to witness greatness while cheering like crazy for the home team. And here's the challenge to the Jazz and their fans from Golden State's Stephen Curry. "Obviously, they're going to have their crowd behind them, and if we can come out like we did in those last two games early and take them out of it the best we can and sustain it, we should be in great shape," Curry said after the Warriors' 115-104 victory in Game 2.
So that's the mission for everybody involved with the Jazz: stay in the game, from start to finish.
The weird thing about Jazz coach Quin Snyder's move of forward Joe Johnson into the starting lineup is it is failing in the first quarter and working in the third quarter. And while playing without point guard George Hill due to an injured toe, the Jazz discovered something Thursday, recognizing that aggressiveness applies to offense as much as defense.
"Sometimes, you're not going to be open very long, and if you're waiting to be more open, you don't get that opportunity," Snyder said.
Explaining his 33-point game, Gordon Hayward said, "After we got blitzed in the first quarter … we figured out how to get into the paint and get some shots for ourselves, some better looks."
Some degree of the Warriors' boredom — more about that subject in a moment — clearly worked in the Jazz's favor Thursday when Golden State's lead went from 20 points in the middle of the second quarter to six in the third period. A better start for the Jazz may succeed only in keeping the Warriors engaged, but that has to happen to give the Jazz any chance of winning a game at Vivint and sending the series back to Oakland.
As Rudy Gobert said, "We need to play angry from the first minute."
Interesting choice of words. As much as I love being among Jazz playoff crowds, in the best environment in Utah sports, there's too much anger in the building sometimes — too much focus on the officials and the visiting team.
The Jazz organization is taking a good-natured approach to the Warriors' published complaints about having nothing to do in Salt Lake City. The "#Nightlife" T-shirts are a nice touch. This stuff is supposed to be fun, after all.
"With a few things that went on this past week, it will probably be a bit hostile," Golden State's Draymond Green said. "But that's fine."
Jazz fans deserved a better ending to the season than last Friday's Game 6 loss to the Clippers at Vivint. The team came through in Los Angeles, extending the home schedule and delaying the full-scale renovation of the arena.
This season has been a franchise breakthrough, regardless of what happens Saturday and Monday. Even so, the Jazz need to make this series a success. That standard is fairly low, in my mind, requiring only one victory — but quite high, because it means beating the Warriors.