There seems to be an abundance of good vibes following the Warriors’ 116-112 Game 1 loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday night.
There are reasons to be upbeat.
The Warriors played the style they wanted. They hung tough in a hostile environment. Stephen Jackson had a wide-open 3-pointer that could have been a game-winner. Al Harrington was spotted.
But there is one matter the Warriors are going to have to deal with if they think they’re going to make an unexpected trip to the Western Conference finals. They have to win a game in Utah. And that’s going to be more difficult than winning in Dallas.
I know the Warriors aren’t the same Warriors they used to be, but the numbers are staggering. The Jazz have beaten the Warriors 23 of the past 25 games in Utah. One of those Warriors wins came last season when Matt Harpring virtually gave the game away when he committed a thoughtless flagrant foul late.
But back to Game 2 … or Game 5 … or Game 7, one of which (at least) the Warriors must win to advance.
There was a general feeling after Monday that the Warriors played exactly the kind of up-tempo game they wanted to play. There was surprise that Utah played that fast, too, and conventional wisdom suggests it won’t be able to continue to win that way.
But I have a hunch Utah coach Jerry Sloan has something up his sleeve, like wanting to play fast at home and slow in Oakland.
Why? Because in Salt Lake City, at altitude, it’s going to be difficult for the Warriors — getting down to a six-man rotation, by the way — to play full throttle for 48 minutes.
If Jackson, Jason Richardson, Matt Barnes and Baron Davis are going to play 40 minutes (or more) a night, it’s not going to be easy to bring it the way you need to bring it at this time of year.
The Warriors need production from Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins, but it’s looking more and more like Warriors coach Don Nelson is shortening their leashes.
Ellis might be the NBA’s Most Improved Player this season, but he played only five ineffective minutes on Monday. Biedrins played 21 minutes, but he’s going to have great difficulty staying out of foul trouble with Carlos Boozer posting up and Deron Williams going hard to the hole.
Utah isn’t the deepest team in the league, but it has some serviceable players who are likely to be passable at home: Dee Brown, Paul Millsap and Gordan Giricek. On the road, I’m not expecting any of those players to be much of a factor.
But if players such as those and, more importantly, Derek Fisher, can give the Jazz key minutes at Energy Solutions Center, it’s going to force the Warriors’ core to put together a special game — for every bit of four quarters — in Utah.
Of course, they can do it … the Warriors just knocked off Dallas.
But the Warriors had something on Dallas. They’re going to have to find that something in Utah.
Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.