Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry Power Warriors Past Donovan Mitchell, Jazz

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorFebruary 13, 2019

OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball against the Utah Jazz on February 12, 2019 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Noah Graham/Getty Images

Kevin Durant scored 28 points and Stephen Curry added 24 as the Golden State Warriors beat the Utah Jazz 115-108 on Tuesday at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.

Donovan Mitchell led the 32-25 Jazz with 25 points. Rudy Gobert had 13 points and 16 rebounds.

The 41-15 Warriors have won five straight.

     

Jazz Are West's Best Chance to Prevent Warriors from Making NBA Finals

Let's get one thing out of the way: Chances are the Warriors are winning the NBA Finals and won't be seriously threatened by any team en route to their fourth title in five years.

But if there's any Western Conference team who can trip up the Warriors before they make their fifth Finals, it's the Utah Jazz.

First, they have a center in Rudy Gobert who can somewhat neutralize the Warriors' new weapon in center DeMarcus Cousins. The Golden State big man scored just 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting on Tuesday and was outplayed by Gobert, who scored one more point on 12 fewer shots. Gobert leads the entire league in defensive real plus-minus, per ESPN.com.

Second, the Jazz have a strong second unit on the wing. Kyle Korver was shooting 40.2 percent from three-point range entering Tuesday. Jae Crowder is a versatile forward who's usually good for 10 points and five boards per night. Royce O'Neale is shooting lights-out this year, entering Tuesday at 48.4 percent from the field. 

Third, no Western Conference team is better defensively than the Jazz, who are ranked third in defensive efficiency overall and first in the West, per ESPN.com.

Gobert plays a large part in that success, but Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Mitchell and Ricky Rubio are all in the top 15 of their respective positions in defensive real plus-minus.

Fourth, they have a star in Mitchell who can take over games. Granted, the Warriors have a few players who can put the team on their back on a given night, but the Jazz at least have one person who can match someone on any given day. He averaged 29.7 points per game on 45.8 percent shooting over a 12-game stretch in January (which included a win over the second-place Denver Nuggets), and the Jazz went 10-2.

Finally, Utah has experienced success against Golden State, having gone 4-3 in its seven games against Golden State since the beginning of the 2017-18 season.

Granted, Cousins played his first game against Utah in a Warriors uniform on Tuesday, and the Warriors were short-handed for a few matchups. But the Warriors have only outscored the Jazz by three total points this season, with two of those games occurring in Oakland.

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle praised the Jazz on Tuesday and noted that they are one of the Warriors' toughest matchups:

A Warriors championship seems inevitable, but the Jazz could certainly push a playoff series with them to the limit.

                    

What's Next?

The Warriors will head north to face the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday. The Jazz are off through the All-Star break and face the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road on Friday, February 22.

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