There are few men as universally feared in the NBA as Steph Curry. You take your eye off of him for one second and — BAM! — he pulls up from 45 feet, and now you’re down two. But while Curry might instill terror into the hearts of his opponents, the Golden State Warriors definitely don’t. With just three games left in the regular season, the Warriors are holding the Western Conference’s eighth seed and are only three games above .500.
Golden State is currently 13-23 against teams with a winning record and haven’t won more than five games in any seven-game stretch all season. Not to mention, if the Dubs survive the play-in tournament, they will be one of the lowest seeds in the playoffs, meaning they wouldn’t have home-court advantage in any series. That’s a big problem for Golden State. The Warriors are 22-11 at home this year compared to 14-22 on the road. However, despite all these statistics in opposition to the Warriors, the Utah Jazz are probably shaking in their beehive boots at the prospect of playing Golden State in the first round of the playoffs.
But why? Why would the Jazz, the team with the best record in the NBA, be terrified of the Dubs? Well for one, the Warriors actually have a winning record against Utah this year. In fact, along with the Nuggets, the Jazz are the only team in the league with a winning record that the Warriors have multiple wins against. In all fairness though, neither Mike Conley nor Donovan Mitchell was available in last night’s game. That being said, there are still some reasons why Jazz fans should be worried about Curry and the Warriors.
For one, the Utah Jazz love it when teams go to the paint. That’s where their big man, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, COVIDiot Rudy Gobert is. He’s really good at defending down there. However, the Warriors almost never go to the paint. Currently, the Warriors average only 17.8 trips to the paint per game. That’s the second fewest in the league to Portland at 17.5. Now normally this wouldn’t be a big deal for the Jazz. If a team wants to step outside, let them, they’ll be squaring off against Mike Conley, one of the league’s premier perimeter defenders.
According to nba.com, Conley has been the third best defender in the league this year in terms of defensive win shares, even ahead of Gobert. However, Conley struggles mightily against Steph Curry. Over the last four seasons, Curry and Conley have squared off and guarded one another on five separate occasions. In those meetings, Curry is averaging 28 points, 6.6 assists, and 6.6 rebounds, while shooting a staggering 54.2 percent from downtown. Conley just can’t seem to stop Steph outside the line.
And finally, the presence of guys like Steph, Draymond Green, and even Klay Thompson — even though he won’t reach the court for the playoffs — provides a lot of playoff experience for the Warriors. That’s something that cannot be undervalued. Meanwhile, there isn’t a single player on the Jazz who has won a game past the second round of the playoffs. The Warriors know what it takes to come up clutch in crunch time, as evidenced by Curry’s incredible 3-point shot late in last night’s game. While they don’t possess the better roster top to bottom, they have that ‘it factor’ and chemistry that gives teams like Utah trouble. If the Warriors take down the 1-seed Jazz in the first round of the playoffs, it would be the first time an 8-seed has defeated a conference’s best since 2012. In NBA playoff history, 1-seeds have won 69 of 74 first round playoff series. The “We Believe” Warriors were the first team to do so after the league extended its first-round playoff series to seven games in 2003 (they ousted the Dallas Mavericks in 2007). While the entirety of that team has retired at this point, I believe the Warriors could pull off another big playoff upset in 2021.