Just one more game stands in between the Golden State Warriors returning to the Western Conference Finals for the third year in a row, as they take on the Utah Jazz in Game 4 looking for yet another playoff sweep (9pm ET, Monday on TNT).
It’s been smooth sailing for the Warriors, who haven’t missed a beat so far in the postseason. Golden State easily dispatched the Portland Trail Blazers, winning their first round series by an average of 15.5 points while placing stars, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and several others in double digit scoring. That success continued as the team battled the Jazz in the second round.
As I wrote in my betting preview for this series, which can be found here, the Jazz needed just about everything to go their way if they hoped to compete with the Warriors. Unfortunately for Utah, there just wasn’t enough firepower to match what Golden State brought forth this series, especially because the Warriors were just about perfect themselves.
Over the first three contests of the series, the Warriors won by no less than nine points per game and a total of 32 points overall. The Jazz kept things about as close as they could but in the end, they were really no match for the power and production that Golden State brought to the table. Curry continues to shine in the postseason, averaging over 27 points per game, and Durant seems fully healed from the injury which kept him limited in the first round. The pair combined for 148 over the first three games, proving to be just too much for Utah to handle.
Golden State has made it look easy and now that they are fully healthy, it’s hard to see anything standing in their way of getting back to the NBA Finals. In the meantime however, there’s at least one last game left in this series. Is it possible Utah could steal one at home? Let’s take a look before deciding on our Game 4 betting predictions and picks.
Utah’s Missing X-Factor
Prior to this series, most people who were giving the Jazz a chance to win a game or two, cited Gordon Hayward or Rudy Gobert as the ones who would have to provide big games. With the exception of the first game, Hayward has done just that, leading the Jazz with 33 and 29 points respectively. Gobert has also played well, scoring in double digits for all three games and recording 31 rebounds combined in the last two.
Utah’s best players have done their job but the Jazz have still lost. At some level, this is just a result of the mismatch. The Warriors are a better and more well-built team and the Jazz were facing an uphill battle to begin with made only more difficult by how well Golden State played. However, there is another reason why the Jazz are down 3-0 and in danger of being swept and that is Joe Johnson and how he has been largely absent throughout this series.
Against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, Johnson was the team’s third leading scorer and provided a spark when he was in the game. The savvy veteran scored in double figures in six of the seven contests including twice topping 20 points. Johnson was active on the court and shot well from beyond the arc, making one-third of his attempts. But, against the Warriors, Johnson has largely been shut down, only managing 26 total points in the three games.
In my series betting preview, I wrote that Johnson was the X-Factor. This very well may still be true. The only problem for the Jazz however, was that their X-Factor has been severely hampered by the mismatch of being guarded by Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant. The Warriors have been able to execute their game plan on Johnson perfectly and as a result, he has been limited and much less of an X-Factor and rather a non-factor.
If Utah does manage to win this fourth game, it will no doubt be because Johnson manages to get his production back. The Jazz need him and Monday night will be a test if the team has figured out how to get that magic back that Johnson provided in the first round.
Our Preview’s Golden State Warriors at Utah Jazz Game 4 Betting Predictions & Picks
The Warriors are as good as they have ever been meaning that it might not matter what the Jazz do on Monday night. At this point, the Warriors may well be looking ahead to the next round where a match-up against the Houston Rockets or San Antonio Spurs awaits. Even then, it’s likely Golden State has their eyes on a rematch against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
That’s not to say that the Jazz should be overlooked but at the same time, they’ll need a minor miracle in order to win just one game in this series. They’ll need Johnson, Hayward, Gobert and George Hill all to have good games. They’ll need to control the tempo and keep the game as low-scoring as their defense will allow. They will need to win the battle of the bench as well as the battle of the boards. They will need to minimize their turnovers. In effect, they’ll need to be perfect and no one is perfect in the game of basketball.