Oakland, Calif. • The fever dream was 28 minutes and 35 seconds long. And while it lasted, it was fantastic.
For those fleeting minutes, the Utah Jazz were toe-to-toe with the Golden State Warriors.
But in a blink, the defending NBA champions shook themselves awake and showed how stark the gap really was. Riding a searing hot tear after halftime, they pulled away with a layup line that has become emblematic of how the Warriors have dominated the NBA for three seasons.
For the Jazz, a whiff of hope was nothing but a whiff in a 126-101 loss. For Golden State, it was business as usual.
Rodney Hood led the way with 26 points, 14 of which were scored in a meaningless fourth quarter. Derrick Favors added 17 points and 10 rebounds. Kevin Durant had a team-best 21 points for the Warriors, who brushed aside Utah without Steph Curry.
“We stopped getting back on defense, and it was like the floodgates opened,” Hood said. “They’ll do that to you. They’re a great team, but that third quarter just can’t happen if we want to compete.”
It wasn’t as though anyone thought the game would be closer, since the Jazz last played Golden State in a playoff sweep. But it served as a frustrating reminder how far ahead the Warriors are of a slumping Utah team playing the most difficult portion of its schedule.
It didn’t always look that way: From a 10-2 deficit at the start of the game, the Jazz went on their own Warriors-like run to take a 16-15 lead with baskets from four different players. The Jazz found success guarding Kevin Durant with veteran Thabo Sefolosha, Durant’s former Oklahoma City teammate with whom he used to spar in practice.
On offense, the Jazz started with more cuts, leading to layups for Favors and open shots from the perimeter. Utah led by as much as seven points.
While the Jazz trailed by a point at the half, 48-47, some statistics seemed backward. Golden State, on the cutting edge of NBA ball movement, had given up eight turnovers leading to 14 Jazz points (Utah had seven turnovers for six points). The dead-eye shooting Warriors backcourt had only managed one 3-pointer by halftime, another coming from Draymond Green.
“First half, we played them as good as we can,” Hood said. “Very physical. We paid attention to the game plan in transition. Offensively we attacked.”
But turning it on in the second half has come naturally to the Warriors, who at times have appeared on cruise control through the regular season. They entered the evening with a plus-198 margin in the third quarter — a better mark than any NBA team in any quarter this season.
And sure enough, the tide flooded in. It started with a handful of Klay Thompson jumpers, keying a 12-3 starting run. The Jazz answered with a surprise 9-0 surge keyed by Ricky Rubio (10 points) and pulled back within a point.
It was then the Warriors decided it was over — particularly Durant, who blocked a shot and had two cutting one-handed dunks as Golden State proceeded to score 30 more points to end the period. The Jazz defense broke down in response, allowing nine layups or dunks in the decisive quarter — underscoring how much Utah misses the rim protection of injured center Rudy Gobert.
“We weren’t focused on doing our job,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “They’re a team that if you make a mistake, they’ll make you pay.”
What was a one-point game at the beginning of the third quarter had become a 21-point game by its end. During a forgettable fourth quarter, Utah was being beat up on by the likes of Patrick McCaw and Nick Young. That’s Golden State basketball.
And the state of Jazz basketball looks desperate, even taking schedule into account. With the defeat, Utah has now lost 10 of its last 13, and Saturday’s game against LeBron James and the Cavaliers hardly looks promising.