The Golden State Warriors begin the second half on Tuesday in Utah needing a strong sprint to the playoff finish line. After losing five straight games to end the first half of the season, the team finds itself prepping for the longest remaining road trip of the season.
Many optimists about the Warriors pointed to the fatigue factor for one of the youngest teams in the NBA. With a full week having passed since the team (save for Stephan Curry and David Lee) has played a game, the hope is that these seven days has rested legs and cleared minds. The stakes increase exponentially as Tuesday’s game places the Warriors against one of the teams that they will be battling down to the wire: The Utah Jazz.
Sitting in the 8th and final playoff position in the Western Conference, the Jazz represent the exactly the type of team that will be the greatest challenge for the Warriors in the second half. A hungry, youthful team in a similar vein to Golden State but with a strength that mirrors their weakness: inside post scoring and defense.
While Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson have both been the subject of trade rumors this season, their ability to dominate with inside scoring continues to make pulling the trigger on a trade a difficult choice for Jazz management.
Utah is desperate for better guard play, but with these big men in the middle, the chances are better than average that the team can make hay against the size challenged teams ahead of them in the playoff race: Namely, the Warriors and the Houston Rockets.
Utah Head Coach Tyrone Corbin must certainly want all his options on the table as his team makes their own push to the playoffs. A trade of one or both of his experienced big men must be keeping him up at night, especially as the scenario to move up in the playoffs is presenting itself.
For the Warriors, the equation is becoming frighteningly obvious. Andrew Bogut has to begin to play like an elite center again on a regular basis or the Warriors will have to continue to dominate their backcourt match-ups. Curry and Klay Thompson have been strong this season, but guard play traditionally only takes you so far in the NBA postseason race.
Tuesday’s game against the Jazz will be the perfect testing ground for the way the Warriors need to play in the second half. Tough and smart in the post with an emphasis on stingy defense. The teams ability to do these things will determine whether or not the season ends the way they and their fans desire.