The 49-31 Utah Jazz and 66-14 Golden State Warriors will treat us to a potential Western Conference semifinals matchup tonight in Oakland that means a lot more to the Jazz than it does to the Warriors (10:30 p.m. ET Monday).
Utah is tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference, but actually sit in the No. 5 spot by virtue of the tiebreaker they lose to the Clippers. The two teams will face each other in the first round of the playoffs and both squads obviously want to be the higher seed so they can have home-court advantage.
Golden State, meanwhile, has secured the top overall seed in the NBA. The Warriors are on a 14-game win streak and got Kevin Durant back on Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans. There’s no question the Warriors are the heavy title favorite right now.
But will Golden State actually go all out to win this relatively meaningless game? We’ll explore that question and a couple others, then make our betting predictions and picks for this contest.
How Much Will the Warriors’ Stars Play?
The word is that Warriors head coach Steve Kerr may rest All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson. That would definitely impact Golden State’s chance at winning, because shooting guard is a major position of advantage over Utah if he plays.
Additionally, Kerr has stated that he expects his regulars not named Kevin Durant to play between 25 to 28 minutes each. That should also affect the outcome of tonight’s game.
Meanwhile, the Jazz are pretty healthy, except for starting point guard George Hill, who could return to the lineup against the Dubs. Given the Jazz’ position in the standings, expect them to play Hill
Who Can Match Rudy Gobert’s Inside Presence for Golden State?
Golden State’s main weakness as a squad is a lack of size and skill inside against superstar big men. Well, Rudy Gobert has made the leap to superstar status this season in an unconventional way by dominating on defense and on the boards and being ruthlessly efficient on offense.
The Warriors’ conventional lineup puts Zaza Pachulia against Gobert at the center position, which is an extremely lopsided matchup on paper. Gobert is far superior as a rim protector, inside finisher and floor runner. Chances are, the “Stifle Tower” will have his way with Pachulia.
Somehow, Golden State will need to find a player who can compete with Gobert inside, whether it’s Pachulia, Draymond Green or JaVale McGee. If they can’t, Utah could pull off an upset.
Which Team Will Dictate the Pace?
The Warriors play at the fourth-fastest pace in the league. The Jazz play the slowest. It’s pretty easy to tell what some of these teams’ biggest emphases are. Golden State wants to get out in transition, and Utah likes to prevent other teams from doing so against them.
The team that plays with more effort is usually the team that finds their desired pace. The playoff seeding situation suggests Utah will be that squad, but the Warriors have also played with excellent focus in the past month in racing out to 14 straight wins.
Count on the Jazz winning if this is a low-scoring game, and the Warriors winning if the teams combine for more than 220 points or so.
Our Preview’s Utah Jazz vs Golden State Warriors Betting Picks & Predictions
This is a tough game to predict, because it is so late in the season and the Warriors could go with a couple of different approaches: they could try to play all their key guys in an attempt to get their rhythm for the postseason, or they could be more conservative and give them a lighter load. We know the Jazz will be playing hard.
Utah is also a deep team, even if George Hill sits, and should have the talent to make Golden State play in the win column if Thompson sits and other regulars play fewer minutes.
- The online betting sites that serve Americans residents have not got odds on this game as we write this preview. They are scared to publish betting lines or spreads because of the uncertainties regarding who plays. Once they do get their act together, then this preview expects to see Golden State strongly favored as the squad hasn’t lost at home in more than a month. But I’m going with a bold prediction that the Jazz will win tonight because of how much this game means to them, so back them on the moneyline at what I am expecting could be as high as 4/1 to 6/1.
- As for the over/under for the total points, the spread may be around 209pts, but that is just what I expect. Since I believe Utah will play harder, it should control the pace and keep this number low. The chance of the Warriors’ stars playing fewer minutes (or not at all) also means fewer points overall. My feeling is that if the bookies pitch it below 200 then it would be a ‘no bet’ situation, otherwise go under.