Two powerful trends that have pulled the Golden State Warriors in opposite directions will intersect Wednesday night when the defending champions host the Utah Jazz in San Francisco.
The Warriors improved to a league-best 14-2 at home with a hard-fought, 110-105 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night.
The win came despite the absence of Stephen Curry (shoulder) and Andrew Wiggins (groin), both of whom are expected to miss Wednesday’s second night of a back-to-back.
Klay Thompson posted a game-high 29 points against the Hornets, and he also likely will sit out the Utah game as part of a rest routine the veteran has undergone so far this season.
Always without Thompson and often without Curry, Wiggins and/or Draymond Green, the Warriors have struggled on the second nights of back-to-backs this season, going 2-5. They lost 125-119 at Indiana and 143-113 at Brooklyn on second nights during their recent six-game trip.
The Warriors have swept just one back-to-back this season, and that came on their only previous sequence of two home games in two nights. They beat the Chicago Bulls 119-111 and Houston Rockets 120-101 on that occasion in early December.
One player the Jazz can expect to see in their second trip to San Francisco this season is Jonathan Kuminga. The 20-year-old, getting a chance to play at crunch time with Curry and Wiggins out, made contributions plays at both ends of the court late in the Tuesday win.
“I thought he was just brilliant,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He made huge plays defensively, and I thought that kinda led to a couple of offensive plays. He was rewarded for his defensive effort.”
Kuminga played 30 minutes in Golden State’s 124-123 loss at Utah on Dec. 7, a night when Kerr chose not to suit up Curry, Wiggins and Green. He hit 10 of his 13 shots while also logging five rebounds and four assists.
The Jazz took advantage of a Warriors team that was resting up for an NBA Finals rematch with the Boston Celtics by getting 22 points and nine assists from Jordan Clarkson and double-figure scoring from six others in the high-scoring affair.
Utah has lost five of nine since then but has seemed to find its offense in the past three contests. The Jazz scored 126, 120 and 122 points while going 2-1 against the Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards and San Antonio Spurs.
The lone loss in the stretch occurred in their most recent outing, a 126-122 defeat against the Spurs on Monday that resulted despite Lauri Markkanen’s 32 points and Clarkson’s 25.
Utah was without Kelly Olynyk, who might be able to return against the Warriors following a four-game absence caused by a sprained left ankle.
The Monday defeat followed a relaxing stretch in which the Jazz enjoyed three days off, including Christmas, before flying into San Antonio to begin a three-game trip.
“We knew these games are always tough going on the road after (a) holiday,” veteran Mike Conley said. “Give them credit. They kept pushing, kept getting to the rim and they kept tempo fast and we never really got our feet under us. We didn’t make shots, but that can’t be an excuse for what we do on the opposite end.”
The Warriors beat the Jazz 129-118 at home in the teams’ first head-to-head matchup of the season on Nov. 25. Curry and Wiggins combined for 53 points in that game.
–Field Level Media