Obviously our organization, we believe we can beat anyone on any day when we play the way we want to play. —Jazz guard/forward Joe Ingles
OAKLAND, Calif. — Considering where the Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors have been the past few years, it’d be tempting to call this a David vs. Goliath situation.
But that comparison has one major flaw.
David only had to face one Goliath.
Getting past the Los Angeles Clippers was a big hurdle for the Jazz, who needed seven games to eliminate Chris Paul & Co. and advance to the Western Conference semifinals for the first time since 2010.
Getting past the Warriors will comparatively be like jumping over The Great Wall of China. The series begins Tuesday (8:30 p.m., TNT) at Oracle Arena.
“The most dangerous part is you can’t choose a most dangerous part,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “There’s so many of them.”
Steph Curry. Kevin Durant. Klay Thompson. Draymond Green.
Better grab some extra rocks for that sling.
That fearsome foursome led the Warriors to 67 wins compared to Utah's 51.
The All-Star quartet lifted Golden State to a No. 1 offensive ranking and to a No. 2 defensive ranking compared to Utah's 12th-ranked offense and third-ranked defense.
They’re the reasons why the W’s are favored to win the 2017 NBA Finals and why the team has been resting since sweeping Portland out of the first round in four games a week ago Monday.
“They’re one of the most talented teams to take the floor, and it shows,” Snyder said. “All you have to do is watch them on film or play them, and you feel it.”
That’s not to say the Jazz aren’t going to try to let the Warriors feel it, either.
Even with Derrick Favors being questionable with a sore lower back, Utah is coming into this series as healthy as it’s been against Golden State all season. The Jazz never had a full squad in three matchups.
Utah is also coming in with some momentum, having overcome the Clippers by winning three games at Staples Center, including that one-sided 104-91 Game 7 blowout on Sunday.
The Jazz, who beat the Warriors at Oracle Arena in the last week of the regular season, are coming in hungry and confident even if everyone considers them outmatched. Utah also has quite a few dangerous weapons of its own in versatile All-Star Gordon Hayward, ageless scorer Joe Johnson, defensive menaces Rudy Gobert and Favors, savvy point guard George Hill and sharpshooting wings Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood.
Utah has a nice mix of youth and experience, offensive firepower and defensive stinginess, physicality and finesse.
“Obviously our organization, we believe we can beat anyone on any day when we play the way we want to play (and) that’s defensively for us,” Ingles said. “I think we’ve got a great chance. There’s no reason to not go in confidently.
“I’m not saying we’re going to go sweep them 4-0,” he added. “If we’re going in thinking we’re going to lose already, we’ve lost before we’ve even started.”
Snyder had the word “COMPETE” written up in the visitors locker room on Sunday, and that’s precisely what he needs from a team that continues to grow in front of elated Jazz fans’ eyes.
“Our challenge is to stay focused on the things that we can control and try to execute a game plan, try to compete and try to keep getting better, to be honest with you,” Snyder said. “We’ve been a resilient group and we’re probably going to need that playing these guys because they’re capable of blitzing you.”
The Jazz felt that in December when they lost 104-74 in Oakland. Utah was more competitive in the other two games, a 106-99 loss at home in early December and then in the surprising 105-99 win that snapped the Warriors’ 14-game winning streak three weeks ago.
Veteran Joe Johnson, an integral part of Utah’s first-round success, says the Jazz need to treat the Warriors like “any other team” despite their loaded roster.
“We’ve got to approach it as though it’s the same type of game,” Johnson said. “Obviously it’s a seven-game series, but we understand who we’re playing and we respect them, but at the same time we’ve got to come out and play Utah basketball.”
That begins with a defensive mindset, which will help if Favors can play and if Rudy Gobert’s ankle improves. It also includes the Jazz playing at a favorable pace, sharing the ball and being consistent with their shooting.
It will also require the Jazz to continue their growth trajectory.
After all, it’s one thing to beat a Blake Griffin-less Clippers team in the first round, but it’s a whole ‘nother to succeed against arguably one of the best teams in NBA history. That’s especially true when factoring in that this mostly young Jazz team is still only three years removed from a 25-win season.
“Every guy, we've just got to keep pounding away,” Jazz point guard George Hill said. “Anything is possible. ... You're going to have your ups and your downs, but we've got to come together collectively. It's going to take all 15 guys, and it showed (Sunday).”
For what it’s worth, the Jazz like that they’re coming in having just played two days before this series starts as opposed to the Warriors, who’ve been off for a week.
“Obviously they've been resting, have had a lot of time,” Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said. “But we come off a Game 7 win, you feel good, you have some momentum.”
They’ll need that confidence and big mo — and more — to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in a decade and even to make it a competitive series.
“I think our guys are ready,” Ingles said. “I think we’ll be prepared and have some fun with it.”