Utah Jazz’s Derrick Favors (15), left, gets the ball taken away by Golden State Warriors’ Festus Ezeli (31) in the second period of their basketball game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)
Five things we learned from the Warriors’ 103-85 win against the Utah Jazz:
1. The Warriors weren’t exactly looking to say much about their upcoming showdown against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Stephen Curry rarely does not address the media after games and did not do so tonight. Draymond Green, rarely hesitant to speak his mind, said the Cavaliers game was “another game,” musing that it meant the Warriors would either finish Christmas 28-1 or 27-2. Only Andrew Bogut would concede that playing the Cavaliers for the first time since the NBA Finals would be a big game.
2. The Warriors respond to the coaching staff well. When challenged on their defensive performances earlier in the week and sat down for a long film session on the topic, the Warriors responded. Bogut and Green played like All-Defense honorees. Gordon Hayward didn’t have a good game on offense with Green and Klay Thompson guarding him. Quin Snyder was left praising the defense that he saw, noting that people can forget about it since the Warriors are so good on offense. But defense is the Warriors’ backbone, and the coaches made sure to get in the reminder.
3. The Warriors are able to take things one game at a time. In their case, the cliche rings true. They could have come out sluggish after four days without a game. Yes, there was some rust in what wasn’t their best offensive game. But they won by 18 one game before the most anticipated game of the year for many followers of the NBA. “Our players are great about staying present and staying in the moment,” interim head coach Luke Walton said.
4. Festus Ezeli is a force to be reckoned with. He had four blocks off the bench, swatting some of the Jazz’s shots as if he were spiking volleyballs. The Warriors are thrilled with his development, and for all the talk of small ball that came out of the their championship run, Ezeli is allowing them to stay big. His strong play has also meant changes in the rotation, as Marreese Speights once again did not play. Neither did new acquisition Jason Thompson.
5. Quietly, Brandon Rush has been solid filling in as a starter in place of Harrison Barnes, who appears unlikely to return in time for the Cavaliers game. Rush hit another 3-pointer against the Jazz, making him 24 for 48 from long distance this season. This is an important development, as the Warriors have long been looking for a knockdown shooter off the bench. Rush had that ability before he tore his ACL, and now that he’s discovered his stroke again, the Warriors have that much more depth.