Warriors handle business, understand mission as postseason looms

NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – All too frequently this season the Warriors have been guilty of playing down to their competition, one of the primary factors why they’ve mostly been a Western Conference afterthought and why it took so long for them to clinch a NBA postseason spot.

Losses at home to the San Antonio Spurs who were without heralded rookie Victor Wembanyama, and the Miami Heat minus Jimmy Butler come to mind. Golden State also dropped a close one to the Chicago Bulls in early March.

That certainly wasn’t an issue against the Utah Jazz on Sunday at Chase Center.

The Jazz came in like a wounded antelope and the Warriors attacked like a fierce jaguar, pouncing on nearly every mistake that made, sending the Jazz limping back to Salt Lake City carrying a 118-110 loss with them.

It was a simple case of taking care of business the way teams headed to the postseason are supposed to.

“We talked about it in our walk-through today,” rookie Brandin Podziemski said. “We’ve had a couple times this year where we played down to our competition. We just weren’t ready to play and we took it for granted. Draymond did a good job of emphasizing that today in the walk-through.

“We also realized that (the Jazz) might not be playing for anything but we’re still trying to win five games down the homestretch and try to climb up as many (spots) as we can.”

Sunday’s clash at Chase Center had all the makings of a trap game.

Golden State had already secured a top-10 seed even before the game began when the Houston Rockets lost in overtime to the Dallas Mavericks. And the Jazz, who were without several of their stars, were riding into town on an 11-game losing streak.

It would have been easy for the Warriors to just mail it in.

Instead, they came out and punched the Jazz in the mouth from the jump and never let up, save for the final few minutes of garbage time when Utah was able to make the score far closer than the game itself was.

“Tonight wasn’t a fair fight,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “They were missing all their guys. I give Utah a lot of credit. They hung in there until the end and played really hard. But I think the totality of the last few weeks, you’re seeing what we’re capable of.”

The Warriors have won seven of their last 10 games and still have a slim chance of moving up the standings. They pulled within one-and-a-half games of the Los Angeles Lakers, who lost to Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. The Sacramento Kings, at 45-33 and in eighth place in the Western Conference, are also within reach.

“It’s super important that we control what we can control and win as many games as we can and let the chips fall when they will,” Podziemski said.

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For most of the second half of the season Kerr has confidently talked about the Warriors being capable of going on a big run and moving up in the standings.

There isn’t a lot of time left to do that, obviously, but as long as they play up to their own standards and don’t take any team lightly, who knows what can happen.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Kerr said. “Four games left and lots of different possibilities. We just have to keep winning. I do feel like we’re playing the way I expected us to. And we’ve found a pretty good rhythm.

“The problem of course is the West is just loaded this year. We’re going to probably end up with a better record than last year and still drop from 6th to somewhere in the play-in. That’s the way it goes.”

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