In conventional terms, the Utah Jazz were never “out” of their matchup against the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 on Thursday. After falling behind early — trailing by 20 points with a minute left in the first quarter — Utah steadily climbed back into it with a slow drip of points scored throughout the game.
Late in the second quarter, the Jazz cut the lead 10. After a quick start to the second half, they trailed by only six points. After Golden State rebuilt their lead, Utah sliced it down to eight points again. In the fourth quarter, the Warriors once led by only two possessions thanks to a five-point advantage with 10 minutes remaining.
For most teams, this would be concerning. It would feel like Utah only need one good run and they could completely change the story of the game. When playing the Warriors, though, it’s simply not enough.
Golden State is inevitable, and even Utah must have felt it.
This game was nowhere near a blowout, so why did it feel so much like one? Every time the Jazz made any substantial push, the Warriors had an answer. After all, they boasted the best offense and second-best defense this regular season, and they have the ability to flex either one of those at a moment’s notice. Utah’s clear failing was falling so far behind early in the game, but it’s not like they wanted to do that. It’s pretty much impossible to play catchup against Golden State, because their defense will eventually shut you down and their offense always finds a way to extend the gap.
One telling moment came with just under two minutes on the clock. Gordon Hayward and then Rodney Hood had scored for Utah, cutting it to a 109-102 Golden State lead, and the Jazz opted for aggression. They doubled Durant on the extended right block, bringing a defense baseline that ideally would catch him off guard for an easy steal. But Durant wasn’t that foolish; he knew to be looking for extra help especially with the game so close. He spotted the double team coming from a mile away and zipped the ball underneath the hoop to Andre Iguodala, who crashed down for an easy layup.
Just like that, a seven-point lead became nine, and then 12, and then the Warriors won 115-104 to take a two games to none lead in the series. They haven’t trailed in three games.
It's now 3 straight games where the Warriors have never trailed.— Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (@ROSGO21) May 5, 2017
It’s not a bad thing for Utah to compete as well as they did, of course. What else are they supposed to do? Hell no, getting blown out isn’t a better answer. But their comeback attempts repeating themselves over and over felt like they were ultimately futile. And, ultimately, they were.
Other teams can stave off opponents over and over again throughout a game like this one, but only the Warriors can make it feel so obvious. The one thing they do best is win, and that always feels inevitable.