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5 things to watch for in the Warriors-Jazz series

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Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles will have to play their best basketball if the Utah Jazz are going to make their series with Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors competitive. (Jacob C. Palmer/S.F. Examiner)
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OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors haven’t played since April 24, eight days ago.

That’s the longest layover they’ve had all season.

The Dubs host the Utah Jazz — who beat the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games — tonight at Oracle Arena.

Expect a physical series between these two teams primed for long-term success.

Here are five other themes of the upcoming series.

1. Clashing styles

The Golden State Warriors played the second-fastest pace of the teams that made the playoffs. Their conference semifinal opponents, the Utah Jazz, were the slowest team in the NBA. But they’re both excellent defensive teams as the Warriors ranked second in the league at defensive ranking and the Jazz were third.

2. Time to adjust

The Jazz and the Portland Trail Blazers couldn’t be more different. The Warriors’ first-round opponent relied heavily on the scoring of their backcourt. Utah needs Joe Johnson to score in crunch time, but he’s shooting less than he ever has since his rookie season 16 years ago. If Quin Snyder’s team stands a chance, it’ll need an absolutely monstrous performance from Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward.

3. Finally at full strength

Some names to appear on the injury report during any of their three regular-season matchups: Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward (twice), George Hill (twice), Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood (twice). That’s essentially every non-international impact player on the Jazz roster. That many absences makes any information gleaned from their games meaningless. Gobert enters the series with a balky ankle, but for the most part, both teams are healthy. On the Warriors side, Matt Barnes (right ankle/foot sprain) is probable and Shaun Livingston (right index finger sprain & hand contusion) is questionable.

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4. There will be boos

ESPN’s Chris Haynes published a story on Monday, reporting the Warriors’ desires to play the Clippers instead of the Jazz, because Los Angeles has a nightlife. “There’s a lot of nice things out in Utah. I don’t want them booing me because I answered your question the wrong way,” acting head coach Mike Brown said after practice on Tuesday. Moments later, he conceded, “they probably will.”

5. Defensive players of the year

Fewer players were in the race for DPOY than MVP, but the two players in contention for the former — Gobert and Draymond Green — had people making their cases as furiously as anyone advocating for Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden for the latter. But don’t make these games a referendum on who’s better between Green and Gobert. “Defensive Player of the Year don’t matter when you’re trying to win championships,” Green said. “I don’t know, maybe that’s his goal — mine is
to win.”

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