The Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz will play tomorrow evening to determine who gets to play the Warriors. Let’s break down the potential matchups. We ran the Houston Rockets Edition earlier.
The Warriors split the season with the Utah Jazz, with each team winning two home games. Let’s throw out the two early games and concentrate on the final two games, when both teams were at full strength.
- March 20 @ Utah. Utah 104, GS 100: Carlos Boozer dominated the interior, grabbing 21 boards to go with his 25 points. Deron Williams dished out 17 assists as the Jazz hit 53% of their shots. The Jazz outrebounded the Warriors 44-30. For the Warriors, Baron only played 25 minutes due to injury worries, but still scored 20 points to complement Harringotn’s 27 and Richardson’s 21.
- April 9 @ GS. GS 126, Utah 102: The Dubs outscored the Jazz 37-20 in the second quarter behind a balanced attack featuring the usual suspects. The rebounding edge was pretty even as well.
Plain and simple, the Jazz are the biggest team in the Western Conference, and that could be problematic for the Warriors.
In Mehmet Okur, they have a 250-lb, seven-footer who will gun from outside and can take up space in the middle (a la Dirk).
In Andrei Kirilenko, they’ve got a defensive game-changer who thrives in a chaotic game, blocking shots and picking up garbage points (a la Josh Howard). And he’s finally looking good again.
But the big differences are in the backcourt and in The Boozer.
Whereas Baron, J-Rich and Jax basically bullied Jason Terry (6-2, 180) and Devin Harris (6-3, 185) all series, the Jazz have two guards in Deron Williams (6-3, 210) and Derek Fisher (6-1, 205) who are big and strong as well. They play D and take charges with the best of them. Plus, Williams is a pure point guard, and a true point guard is the key to preventing the chaotic game that the Warriors thrive on. Dallas simply doesn’t have someone who can dish out 10+ assists on a nightly basis.
The next problem is Carlos Boozer. The man averaged nearly 15 boards in four games against the Warriors this year. He’s an inside scorer, a beast. He’s their best scorer and rebounder. Not many in the league can handle him down low, and we doubt anyone on the W’s can match up.
If the Dubs get the Jazz, Monta Ellis and Al Harrington must step up. If Okur, Kirilenko and Boozer are on the floor (which they figure to be for the majority of the game), Harrington and Biedrins are probably going to have to play together, unless Stephen Jackson can guard Okur (which is a real possibility, we’ll admit).
As for Monta, no one on the entire Jazz roster is even close to him in terms of quickness. The Mavs, for all their faults, were quick in the backcourt and had shotblockers (Diop, Dampier) down low, which basically relegated Monta to bench duty. The Jazz are physically strong, but have no shot-blockers and are slow on the perimeter.
If the Jazz win tomorrow, the Warriors’ guards are going to have to live in the Utah paint, especially considering the hot shooting has got to cool off at some point. Or not.