They move the ball extremely well. Obviously defensively, they’re pretty tough as well. It’s an all-around team. It’s a great opportunity. To play at home is something we’ll enjoy. —Joe Ingles
SALT LAKE CITY — No matter what happens Monday night, the Utah Jazz will be part of history.
If the Jazz beat the Golden State Warriors, they will end the best-ever start in the NBA.
If the Jazz lose, well, they’ll join a long list of teams who have fallen to the Warriors during this unprecedented championship-defending run.
The Warriors have already beaten the Pelicans, Kings, Nuggets, Grizzlies and Clippers twice while beginning the 2015-16 with 18 consecutive victories — three more than the previous record start of 15-0.
Golden State has also picked up wins over the Rockets, Pistons, T-Wolves, Nets, Raptors, Bulls, Lakers and Suns.
In other words, almost half of the NBA has failed to spoil the Warriors’ amazing start.
“They’re certainly playing as well now as I think any team has played,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “It just shows you the chemistry, the skill, the culture and the coaching and all of that stuff. It’s a unique combination that they have.”
“Oh, definitely not,” Jazz forward Trevor Booker said. “It’s exciting. No pressure on us. We’re going to have a big fan base (Monday). Everybody’s excited.”
“I think there is enthusiasm to play a game against the best team in basketball and arguably the best team in a number of years the way they’re playing right now,” Snyder said. “There’s also a respect and a realism that goes with that.
“I don’t think the two are inconsistent,” he added. “I think you can be excited to go into a situation knowing you could get beat and get handled, but if you don’t have enthusiasm, I don’t think you have a chance to win.”
Joe Ingles smiled when asked what the Jazz’s mindset will be when the NBA’s most explosive offense steps on their court at Vivint Arena.
“Try and beat them,” he said.
The Jazz guard admitted that they’ve been hoping the Warriors would keep winning leading up to Monday’s matchup, saying they'd love to be the first team to put an L in the Warriors’ column.
“It’s pretty impressive the way they’re playing with all of the weapons they’ve got,” Ingles said. “They move the ball extremely well. Obviously defensively, they’re pretty tough as well. It’s an all-around team. It’s a great opportunity. To play at home is something we’ll enjoy.”
The Warriors, who are 8-0 on the road, will be without one of their weapons. Forward Harrison Barnes is out for the next three games with a left ankle injury.
But Golden State is still loaded, beginning with reigning MVP Steph Curry, the NBA’s leading scorer (31.9 points per game), most lethal 3-point shooter (90 treys on 44.3 percent) and ridiculous, highlight-reel playmaker.
Ingles laughed and replied “obviously” when asked if he’s the Steph Curry of Australia. The Aussie then quickly retorted, “He’s the Joe Ingles of America.”
Snyder also responded humorously when addressing the topic of how to defend Curry.
“We put Rudy (Gobert) on him and he’ll figure out how to score on Rudy,” Snyder said. “We can put (assistant coach) Johnnie Bryant on him and he’ll score on him. You try to guard him with your team.”
Snyder added that the Jazz won’t be obsessed by this lopsided mismatch between Curry and Utah’s point guards Raul Neto and Trey Burke.
“Every team in the league loses that matchup individually,” Snyder added. “But that’s not the point.”
What makes the Warriors especially dangerous is the depth they have behind Curry with Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and company. Even Brandon Rush contributed 16 points in Golden State’s blowout win over Sacramento on Saturday.
“Steph Curry’s one of the best players in the NBA, if not the best, so (we’ll) try to limit him, limit his shots,” Booker said. “Also Klay Thompson is a really good shooter. Draymond is a playmaker, so there’s a lot of keys to go over.”
To wit, the Warriors are fast, play small ball at an elite level and are extremely dangerous from outside. Yet they also have one of the NBA’s better interior defenders in former Ute star Andrew Bogut.
“I just think they’re a unique team. You have to be prepared for all different types of combinations throughout the course of the game,” Snyder said. “There’s not one way to play them because they can play so many different ways.”
And they’re good at so many different things — from passing to pushing the ball to making you pay from the perimeter. The proof is in how many categories the Warriors are atop the NBA rankings: points (115.8), field goal percentage (.491), assists (29.8), 3-pointers (13.2), 3-point percentage (.429), point differential (+16.0), fast break points (22.1), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.85) and offensive rating (113.5 points per 100 possessions).
The Warriors also own the season’s biggest comeback win (a 23-point deficit against the Clippers) and the biggest win (a 50-point victory over the Grizzlies).
“For us, anytime we get a chance to play a unique situation against a high-level of competition, we want to use that to improve,” Snyder said. “You have that opportunity against this team because they’re so good.”
The Jazz (8-7) aren’t on the level of the Warriors, but they are coming into this one having picked up nice wins on the road against the Clippers and Saturday against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.
Utah will have the advantage in the interior with Gobert and Derrick Favors, who’s expected to return after missing Saturday’s game because of personal reasons.
The Jazz even experienced success against the Warriors last season, beating Golden State 110-100 at home a few months before its title run.
“I just know it’s going to be an exciting game. Last year, we beat ‘em,” said Booker, who’s coming off his best game this year (13 points, 15 rebounds). “I think if we play hard and follow our concepts, we’ve got a good chance of beating them.”
Like Booker mentioned, Snyder isn’t putting too much pressure on the Jazz to win this particular game, even if it would be a fun to make that mark in the history book.
“I don’t want to build one game into a championship,” Snyder said. “If we lose, we lose one game. If we win, we win one game.”
JAZZ NOTES: The Jazz didn’t have a traditional practice Sunday. They participated in what they call a recovery day, doing individualized workouts, lifting weights, doing cardio, watching film and getting treatments. Favors participated in Sunday’s practice after missing Saturday’s game. Snyder said starting point guard Raul Neto played through an illness against the Pelicans. Trey Burke is listed as probable and Rodney Hood as questionable (back spasms). Booker played a team-high 38 minutes while filling in for Favors. “It was definitely tough to play 38 minutes because I play extremely hard. I only know one speed,” he said. “Maybe next time I can find some kind of way to pace myself. I’m pretty dead right now, gotta hit the cold tub.”