On the Jazz whiteboard, in assistant coach Mike Wells’ immaculate script, one sentence stood out among many: “THIS IS THE GAME!!!”
Wearing new incandescent jerseys and playing the reigning league champions, it was Utah’s opportunity to make a statement on Tuesday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The Jazz did.
A 129-99 win over the Golden State Warriors — not the resting for the playoffs version the Jazz beat last spring — saw Utah (22-28) play its best basketball of the season, including some things the team had not done to that point.
Joe Ingles had never made six 3-pointers before. Ricky Rubio hadn’t had 11 assists in a Jazz uniform before. It had been a while since the Jazz were able to extend a lead with Donovan Mitchell sitting on the bench. And Utah hadn’t scored 129 points in any game this season. And the Warriors had not lost by 30 points, either.
Somehow, these things came together for the Jazz, who resembled the Warriors more than the Warriors resembled themselves — if only for one surreal night. There was a stunningly rare sighting of Golden State pulling its starters midway through the fourth quarter, not because they had built an insurmountable lead as they often do, but facing one.
Utah won for only the third time in the team’s last 17 meetings with Golden State.
It was Ingles — not Stephen Curry — who started out hot, hitting his first five looks from 3-point range. Golden State’s defense, which coach Steve Kerr readily acknowledged has lacked urgency on some nights, looked vulnerable as Rudy Gobert crashed into the paint for massive dunks and Ricky Rubio drove in to the paint, often leaving Curry in his wake.
The expected third quarter rally never came: Kevin Durant and Curry sludged through below-average nights. The only one of Golden State’s four All Stars who looked up to legend was Klay Thompson: He skewered the shot chart with 27 points on 12-for-17 shooting. But the team was just 5 for 25 from the 3-point line for the night.