OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The Utah Jazz know they might have to contend with the Golden State Warriors again on the big playoff stage.
A different version of the defending champions by then, most certainly – a far healthier version.
Rudy Gobert had 17 points and 15 rebounds and the Jazz pulled away from the undermanned, injury-plagued Warriors in the third quarter on the way to a 110-91 victory Sunday night.
Utah wants to make sure the rest of the regular season goes smoothly before thinking too far ahead.
”We know it could be a rematch,” Gobert said of another playoff series after Golden State swept the Jazz in last year’s Western Conference semifinals. ”We’re focused on the moment.”
Quinn Cook had 17 points and eight assists as defending champion Golden State played without its four injured All-Stars and was forced to use yet another makeshift starting lineup.
Before the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr ruled out Stephen Curry for the first round of the playoffs because of a sprained left knee – while Curry vowed to do everything in his rehab power to prove Kerr wrong and return sooner.
Donovan Mitchell scored 21 points for the Jazz, coming off a four-point overtime loss at San Antonio on Friday. Joe Ingles added 14 points with four 3-pointers, eight assists and six rebounds.
This marked just the second time Golden State played without its four All-Stars after Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all sat for a 107-85 loss on March 11, 2017, at San Antonio. But, that time, Durant was the lone injured one of the group rehabbing a left knee injury while the other three simply rested.
”I thought we hung in there pretty well,” Kerr said. ”We just didn’t have enough firepower, but I like the way we fought.”
Green had been set to return Sunday, but was ruled out with flu-like symptoms.
Kerr expects both Durant and Green back as soon as Tuesday against Indiana, while noting ”Klay’s coming along well” as he nurses a fractured right thumb.
”Well, we’ve got to hold down the fort,” Kerr said. ”We’ve got enough. We’re blessed with a great roster, a lot of depth and so, let’s get going. Let’s play and let’s compete and hold down the fort. There’s no reason why we can’t come out and really play well down the stretch and be ready for the playoffs and then maybe we get Steph back and we’ll see what happens.”
Cook, Nick Young, Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney and JaVale McGee started.
Cook went to the locker room late in the half after two crashing drives but returned for the third quarter, when the Warriors shot 8 for 20.
Golden State began the game 5 for 16, but Utah was just 4 of 16.
Jazz: The Jazz scored 36 points in the third. … Utah shot 12 for 28 from 3-point range. … Utah also won at Oracle Arena late last season with a 105-99 victory on April 10, 2017, Golden State’s second-to-last game. … C Tony Bradley missed his seventh straight game in the concussion protocol.
Warriors: Kerr received a technical foul late in the first half for arguing, his sixth overall and first since Feb. 6 as he has made an effort to keep his cool. … Golden State used its 23rd different starting lineup – after 14 lineups last season – most under Kerr. … Curry won’t travel for the remainder of the regular season while focusing on his rehab.
After Kerr announced of Curry ”there’s no way he’s playing in the first round,” the two-time MVP limped into a pregame news conference determined to prove his coach wrong .
”It’s nice that I’m walking and not limited with crutches or anything like that, so that’s a positive,” Curry said.
An MRI exam Saturday showed a Grade 2 sprain of his medial collateral ligament and the team said Curry would be re-evaluated in three weeks – that would be April 14 and a possible Game 1 of the playoffs for Golden State.
”Based on what I’ve been told, three weeks is a good kind of benchmark to re-evaluate and re-assess kind of where I’m at in my progress and whatnot, so mentally for me staying positive, staying upbeat, hopefully I prove what Coach said was wrong and put myself in position to get back as soon as possible,” Curry said. ”Right now, who knows? Just try to do my job in the rehab process and get back as soon as I can. Control my presence with the team and everything to help any way I can when I’m not on the floor.”
Jazz: Host Boston on Wednesday trying to end a three-game skid in the series.
Warriors: Host Indiana on Tuesday looking for a fifth straight win against the Pacers.
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