Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images
Steph Curry is playing in credible and the Utah Jazz found out in person
It was another night of difficult basketball for the new-look Utah Jazz. Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson looked like they’re back to form and beat the Jazz with relative ease 129-107.
Lauri Markkanen struggled in this one with 19 points and 5 rebounds. The Warriors have a lot of big wings and forwards to throw at opposing wings, and the combination of Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, and Draymond Green gave Markkanen a lot of trouble. They kept him off his spots, especially at the top of the key, and Markkanen couldn’t impose his will. The Jazz play the Warriors in three days, and they’ll have to figure out different ways to get Markkanen involved to get him more shots. But there is something important here to remember. Markkanen is getting more chances now to improve as well. So much of what Markkanen is good at right now is dependent on other players setting him up to do it. Markkanen, if the Jazz are going to win a title, needs to be a little less dependent. Games like tonight are tough but these are the Warriors, they looked like contenders tonight. If you’re in a playoff series against a team like this, your skill level and toughness have to be at a certain level. Can Markkanen improve as the season continues to become something more than just an off-ball player, even if he’s one of the best off-ball players in the league?
Before the game started, the Jazz made a surprise announcement that Keyonte George would start at point. His first shot of the game was a nice three, but he struggled shooting the rest of the game, going 2/10 from the field and 1/6 from three. He was Curry’s main defender at the point of attack, and he did a pretty decent job with Curry starting the game shooting 3/12, although Curry exploded in the fourth, something he always seems to do. This was a tough assignment for George’s first time starting since he went down with an injury and lost his starting job to Kris Dunn. Experience like this is exactly what Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik want for George. How does he respond after nights like tonight? His ability to learn from this and grow will be essential not only for his future but for the Jazz as well.
The Jazz's other important move tonight was continuing to give Taylor Hendricks minutes. Hendricks is now getting the minutes Jazz fans have been clamoring for him to get, but those minutes showed why the Jazz had him in the G-League to start the season. Hendricks oozes potential, but he’s very raw and figuring out how to contribute. Starting your NBA journey against Steph Curry and Kevin Durant in two nights is a refiner’s fire if I’ve ever seen one. We’ve seen enough flashes that it’s important to give him minutes. Each game, he’ll learn his spots and figure out how to contribute more and more. The talent is there, it just needs polish.
The thing about this game is the Jazz played it relatively close until Steph Curry ignited in the fourth. Utah was within five before Draymond Green hit a half-court three to go to halftime.
The Jazz sounded dejected in the locker room, which is not surprising considering how they were playing with the core of players and the winning the Jazz did.
The young Jazz players are getting the minutes they need, and for the vets on this Jazz team, that’s likely a frustrating thing. But the investment now will have long-term benefits. Considering how tough the game was and that the Jazz were even close at times with Markkanen not shooting it well in the first half, there may be benefits felt in the short term. The Jazz have kept all the players they see being a part of the future and a solid group of vets around them. There will be painful losses in the short term, but that was expected. The biggest thing we’ll learn about this Jazz squad is if they’re a tough-minded group. Can they overcome adversity? If they can’t, they probably weren’t going anywhere, regardless of the trade deadline.
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