By KAREEM COPELAND, AP Sports Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Golden State Warriors’ offense — led by former MVPs Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant — has overwhelmed the Utah Jazz for a 3-0 lead in the second-round Western Conference playoff series.
Lost in the highlights has been a smothering defense allowing just 99.3 points per game — second-best among teams still alive in the postseason.
With the exception of Gordon Hayward, and Rudy Gobert to a smaller degree, the Jazz have struggled offensively as open looks have been hard to come by in the series.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said Golden State’s combination of length and quickness makes things difficult.
Golden State’s 97.4 defensive rating is a postseason-best and more than four points better than any other team.
“That allows them the opportunity to do some things that are effective in their ability to switch,” Snyder said.
“Draymond Green, the fact that he’s such a unique defender, he can guard five positions. He’s that good on everyone. So, he’s a linchpin there. The individual defenders that they have — KD’s length is a factor.
“You think you’re open and not only are you contested, but he blocks it. … More importantly, they think so quickly. They cover for each other so well.
“Sometimes you think you’re open because you’ve managed to shake free from one guy and they quickly switch out to cover for each other. They’re able to do that, again, because their anticipation is so great.”
Green, Durant, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston are all versatile defenders and JaVale McGee brings a rim protector off the bench.
The Warriors were forced to rally from a nine-point deficit Saturday and Durant’s 38 points got most of the attention.
But Golden State also forced the Jazz to shoot 32.4 percent in the second half, and Utah was just 5 for 17 in the fourth quarter.
Interim head coach Mike Brown also credited the communication between players, led by Green, for their defensive prowess.
“We have multiple defenders that can guard multiple positions,” Durant said. “That makes up for a lot, so we can throw a couple bodies on their best player. We can switch some stuff and guard big, so that helps us out as well.
“The other thing is rebounding. Once we rebound the basketball, we push and we like our chances in transition.”
The Warriors look to close out the series Monday.
Here’s some things to know for Monday’s game:
Warriors at Jazz, Golden State leads 3-0. Game 4, 9 p.m., TNT
NEED TO KNOW: Golden State has won a franchise-record seven consecutive playoff games in a single postseason and only one victory was by fewer than 11 points. The Jazz played their best game of the series in Game 3 and still lost by 11. The trio of Curry, Durant and Green has been too much for the Jazz. Thompson has been in a bit of a slump and was 1 for 9 Saturday.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The Warriors’ efficiency. Golden State trailed for the first time this series in Game 3 and was behind by nine in the third quarter. The Warriors rallied, in part, due to the fact they didn’t have a single turnover in the second half. Seven total turnovers tied a postseason low. The 102 points scored were their lowest of the postseason, but Golden State rallied in the fourth quarter and shot 55.6 percent in the final 12 minutes.
INJURY UPDATE: Warriors coach Steve Kerr remains out indefinitely after having a spinal cord leak procedure to help alleviate complications from back surgery about two years ago. He didn’t travel to Salt Lake City and has been out since Game 3 of the first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers. Jazz guard George Hill missed his second consecutive game with a toe injury Saturday. Snyder said his status hasn’t changed and he’ll likely be a game-time decision for Game 4.
PRESSURE IS ON: All of the Jazz if they don’t want to be swept. Hayward and Gobert have played well the past two games, but Joe Johnson and Joe Ingles have regressed from a strong first round against the Los Angeles Clippers. Utah would love to get more offense from the banged-up Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors.
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