SALT LAKE CITY – Here are five observations from the Golden State Warriors’ 129-107 blowout victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday night, surpassing their record .500 for the first time since December.
1. Improving the general situation
The low point of the Warriors’ season came four weeks ago in Salt Lake City. They had just been waxed by a Memphis Grizzlies team without all of their best players, dropping them to 18-22 after a particularly weak 3-8 stretch. Part of the organization gathered for a team dinner intended to relieve stress.
At the event, Dejan Milojevic, a beloved assistant coach, suffered a heart attack and died the next morning, bringing a heavy dose of trauma and real perspective to an already spiraling season.
Two matches were postponed. Their season was paused for nine days. Their record remained at 18-22, keeping them 12th in the West. It seemed trivial (from a life perspective) and silly (from a field perspective) to predict any kind of turnaround.
Four weeks later, the Warriors were back in Utah, still feeling the pain of Milojevic’s death. Warriors coach Steve Kerr and assistant coaches Chris DeMarco and Ron Adams were not with the team. They traveled to Serbia for Milojevic’s funeral on Monday morning. Kenny Atkinson, the interim head coach, spoke with Kerr late in the morning and briefed the players on the coaching experience in Serbia, a grim reminder of their defeat.
But after that, the conversation shifted to basketball, which has become a more sought-after distraction lately because their season has turned around.
“Winning helps,” Atkinson said. “When you start to have a little winning streak, you want more. So there is this enthusiasm. We also know that we are behind (in the standings). So there is a little advantage for us. A positive advantage.
The Warriors then came out and blew out a Jazz team right below them in the standings. Utah is sinking quickly after trading away three rotation pieces at the deadline. The Warriors are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Jazz for 10th place and are trending upward, a half-game behind the Los Angeles Lakers and four behind the Phoenix Suns in sixth place, their ultimate goal .
In the 11 games since returning from the nine-day break, the Warriors are 8-3. Two of these defeats came in overtime. The other came by a single point to the Sacramento Kings. They have won five in a row and seven of eight. Six of those seven games were essentially blowouts. They have the fourth-best offense (121.2 rating) and third-best defense (110.5 rating) during this stretch.
There is reason to believe that it is sustainable. Jonathan Kuminga exploded last month. Draymond Green is back, motivated and playing wonderfully on both ends, bringing together a pair of Kuminga in the frontcourt and the subtly rising Andrew Wiggins. Steph Curry is hot. The young depth pieces behind them – like Brandin Podziemski, Lester Quinones and Gui Santos – provide a boost.
“Honestly, I think my suspension helped me, in a weird way,” Green said. “Because JK left. That kind of set the stage for our team. Real option #2 on our team. Now you have different things to do. Our offense doesn’t look exactly the same as before. You are able to find different combinations that worked.
Afterward, Green noted, “Not that I want to be suspended or that it’s a good thing or anything like that. But I think it’s kind of helped us find different things that we can visit and explore. Now you put me back in the fray, add (Gary Payton II) back from injury, (Chris Paul) back.
2. Curry during the surge
Here are Curry’s 3-point numbers during this 11-game stretch: 74 of 151. That’s 6.7 makes per game with 49% accuracy. No one else in the NBA has made 50 3s in that span. Curry has made 241 this season. The next closest is at 180.
Curry has been particularly powerful in the last three games. He went 11 of 16 against the Indiana Pacers to close out the previous trip and 9 of 16 at home against the Suns on Saturday night, then followed that up with a 7 of 16 night against the Jazz, making it four. of these 3 in the fourth quarter to seal it.
“He’s on fire,” Atkinson said. “I think he knows the moment. He knows we need him. We have a lot of catching up to do. I think he just feels the team needs him. Draymond is in the same bucket. They just kind of know it. “It’s time to go now.” There’s nothing more comforting than that.
The Warriors were +30 in Curry’s minutes against the Jazz. They just needed a few buckets of filler to tread water while he was on the bench and to support the blowout. Over the past decade, that burden has often fallen on Thompson, who has struggled of late but put together one of his best games of the season Monday night.
Without Curry to open the fourth, Thompson made three straight mid-range jumpers in roughly the same spot, about 14 feet next to the right elbow. The first was a pump-fake and-1 against an overzealous Kris Dunn. The second was a rainbow coiled on one leg as Dunn followed the screen. The third was a quick cut, catch and shoot.
Here is the first:
Here is the second:
Here is the third:
That wasn’t even half of the damage Thompson dealt inside the arc. He made three 3s, including the punctuation point that allowed Atkinson to clear the bench, but 11 shots in total. That means Thompson has made eight 2s. That’s his most 2s in a game since January 2023, over a year. He was effective in the mid-range, as a backside cutter and on escapes in transition.
“He took his time,” Atkinson said. “I wasn’t rushed. He really used his size to get into the lane and shoot over their smaller guards.
This earned Thompson a spot in the final roster, something that had eluded him recently and was a source of angst.
“He was phenomenal on both ends,” Atkinson said. “His physique, his shooting challenges. He took (Lauri) Markkanen at the end. He said: “I want Markkanen.” I did a very good job with him.
4. What else?
Wiggins continued his recent strong streak, providing solid defense on the wing while adding 17 points on 10 shots. He was plus-31 and was part of a group of eight Warriors in double figures.
Trayce Jackson-Davis’ nine minutes were particularly notable. After a short time in the first half, Atkinson used him as a threat at the rim in the second half, and Curry and Thompson immediately found him. He made all four of his shots and got to the rim for five free throws. They even tried it a bit with Green, a frontcourt duo that Kerr recently said he wanted to try at some point.
Moses Moody also slid in from the edge of the rotation. Atkinson first put him in play late in the first half for a few minutes and came back to him for a six-minute stint in the second half. He’s been behind Lester Quinones recently. Moody, returning after a prolonged absence due to a calf injury, missed all eight shots.
“Trayce gave us a big boost,” Atkinson said. “It’s important that we surround these guys with our veterans in the right formations. Trayce was outside with Draymond. This helps it settle into place. Moses is in this situation right now: injured, he comes back, he has to find his way. It was good that we gave him a few minutes.
5. Game plan
Green hit a half-court hit to close the first half:
(Klay Thompson Photo: Chris Nicoll / USA Today)
Gn En sports