The hare won this match Tuesday night.
Stephen Curry scored a game-high 22 points as Golden State took a 1-0 lead in its Western Conference semifinal playoff series by defeating the Utah Jazz 106-94 at Oracle Arena. The Warriors were the first team to have five players with five or more assists in a playoff game since the Seattle SuperSonics did it against the Phoenix Suns in 1993. The Jazz didn't have a single player reach five assists, marking this game as the first in NBA playoff history in which one team had at least five players with five assists while the other team had zero.
Warriors acting head coach Mike Brown warned his team that the Jazz are No. 1 in points per possession in transition, despite ranking dead last in pace. Golden State won that battle in Game 1, outscoring the Jazz 29-6 in fast-break points.
"We weren't clicking with making shots early on, but our defense just really gave us an opportunity to kind of find that [running] flow," Curry said. "And that's what you need in the playoffs to really assert yourself and get the momentum on your side."
Utah harassed Golden State along the perimeter in an effort to eliminate the long ball. The Jazz had some success, as the Warriors made only 7 of 29 shots from beyond the arc (24.1 percent). But the Jazz didn't have a scheme for taking the wheels off the Warriors' high-speed vehicle.
"It all starts with the defensive side of the ball," said Kevin Durant, who had 17 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. "You get stops and rebound, you can run out. But if we're taking the ball out every time, it's hard for us to get into a rhythm in a transition game. So just getting stops."
The Warriors got off to a strong start after seven days off, racing to a 9-0 lead. Utah didn't score its first basket until 7:48 remained in the opening quarter as it missed its first six shots.
Once the Jazz got on the board, they had a problem with turnovers -- specifically, the Warriors scoring off of them. Golden State had only seven turnovers to go with 32 assists, and the Jazz coughed it up 14 times. The Warriors outscored the Jazz 20-4 off turnovers alone.
"They change ends quickly," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "They back cut. I'll just have to look at the film, but I thought they were smarter, yes, but just more urgent and quicker thinking, more reactive. You have those moments where you're not urgent enough, they just punish you for it."
The Warriors were festive on a night they acknowledged the "We Believe" team from the 2007 postseason. Early in the second quarter the Warriors got a defensive stop and Andre Iguodala zipped a pass up to a sprinting Draymond Green near half court. The versatile power forward pushed it full steam ahead for an acrobatic left-handed layup in traffic.
Green then began staring at his left hand in amazement. He should have been staring at his legs, because the Jazz couldn't keep up.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert is one of the best defenders in the league, but he's not a miracle worker. In the second quarter, Curry caught Gobert out of his comfort zone on the perimeter. Gobert switched on Curry defensively, and the two-time MVP crossed him up with some sharp ballhandling, spinning the big man around in a circle. After the damage was done, with the crowd oohing and ahhing, Curry drove to the basket and finished with a nifty reverse layup.
"We wanted to try to get him out of the paint because that's where he's most effective," Curry said of the play. "He's protecting the rim. ... So if you can get him out and make him guard some guards and some wings and try to make him uncomfortable in those situations, I think it's to our advantage."
Late in the third quarter, Green received the ball on the right wing and took off toward the basket. Jazz big man Boris Diaw was in the paint in between Green and JaVale McGee. In anticipation of Green throwing an alley-oop, Diaw stayed with McGee. Green just took it in for a jam. As they ran back on defense, Green acknowledged McGee's impact on the play by running over to him for a high-five.
Curry, who made 7 of 11 shots from the field, tweaked an ankle in the third quarter. But he returned to the floor for 21 seconds in the fourth.
"Just routine maintenance," he said. "Whether it's in the back or on the bench or in between quarters or whenever it happens. It's nothing to worry about."
It was a game where the Warriors never trailed, leading the Jazz by as many as 21 points. Game 2 will be Thursday night at Oracle Arena.