The overwhelming favourites for the NBA Championship the Golden State Warriors will return to the court in the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Utah Jazz.
The Warriors eased past the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs, barely getting out of first gear in a 4-0 whitewash victory.
However, the Bay Area side will have to compete for the rest of the post-season without head coach Steve Kerr on the sideline due to his health problems.
Mike Brown has taken over coaching duties and must inspire his team to remain on track against the strongest defense in the NBA.
The Jazz have reached the Semi-Finals for the first time since the 2009-10 campaign, but will be desperate to avoid their experience of their last venture into the Western Conference last four when they were whitewashed by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Quin Snyder’s men produced four impressive performances to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers, but will have to take their game to the next level to beat the potent Warriors offense.
We’ll now break down how both sides reached the last four and the best betting options for the contest.
The Warriors entered the post-season with the best record in the NBA following their impressive run towards the end of the campaign.
The big three of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant were in full flow following the latter’s return to full fitness from a knee injury.
Portland stood in their way of advancing into the Western Conference Semi-Finals for the third season on a row, with the club heavily backed to overcome the Trail Blazers having dominated their regular-season meets.
Golden State came out firing in the first quarter of their clash at Oracle Arena, although the visitors managed to level the scores before the break thanks to a fine performance from CJ McCollum.
However, Durant and Draymond Green managed to pull the Warriors away in the fourth quarter, guiding their side to a comfortable 12-point victory.
Dominant first and third quarters in game two of the series allowed Kerr’s men to canter to victory, with the points being shared around the team – so much so that none of the big three managed to break the 20-point mark in the 110-81 win.
At the Moda Center, Portland responded with a fine first half of basketball in front of their home fans. They held a narrow advantage at the interval, but Curry was able to raise the level of his game in the second half to take the contest and effectively the series away from the Trail Blazers.
The Warriors ensured that they would complete a whitewash with a 45-point blitz in the opening quarter of game four, with Curry putting on a clinic to secure the emphatic victory in the club’s first game without the presence of Kerr on the sideline.
Snyder’s team have been plucky underdogs throughout the season and kept that spirit alive with their first-round win over the Clippers.
Doc Rivers’ side had bested them 3-1 in their four regular term contests, but they managed to turn the tables on Los Angeles using their stoic defense to drive them over the line.
Utah had won 51 regular season matches, which would have almost been good enough to challenge for the one seed in the Eastern Conference. They were handed a tough test in the form of the experienced Clippers, with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul in the line-up.
However, the Jazz responded with a fine performance on the road making a statement in their victory at the Staples Center. Joe Johnson led the way with 10 points, but their stout defensive effort led by Boris Diaw and Gordon Hayward proved decisive in the win.
Los Angeles bounced back with successive victories to take the lead in the series, with their experienced players rising to the occasion – as Griffin then Paul put in fine displays.
A 40-point outing from Hayward went in vain on home soil in game three, but Johnson fired again in the next contest, scoring 27 points to level the scores at 2-2.
Utah pulled within striking distance of the Semi-Finals as Hayward inspired their second win on the road at the Staples Center in a 96-92 victory.
A brilliant display from Paul denied the Jazz in game six, taking the series to a decider at the Staples Center. However, Snyder’s men produced a complete team performance to defeat the Clippers 104-96 to book their showdown with the Warriors.
The Warriors have been the leading candidates to win the NBA Championship since their defeat at the hands of the Cavaliers in the Finals last term and their addition of Durant in the off-season.
As a result few people will not be backing them to not reach the Western Conference Finals due to the depth of talent they possess. The ease of their victory over the Trail Blazers will only heighten the levels of expectation on their players, but they have more than enough quality to deliver.
The contest against the Jazz will be a battle between the best offense and the best defense in the NBA. Utah allowed an average of only 96 points per game during the regular season and they allowed the Clippers to surpass the 100-mark only once during their seven-game series.
Golden State are a cut above Rivers’ men and will pose much tougher questions of their rearguard action, with Curry and Thompson probing on the perimeter and Durant along with Green under the net. Snyder’s men have some offensive firepower in the form of Hayward, but not enough to match the production needed to beat the Warriors in the playoffs.
The only option to take for the series winner is the Warriors at -10000 with Sportsbet Sportsbook – even without Kerr on the sideline.
Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green should overwhelm the best defense in the league without too much trouble, although taking the 4-1 scoreline at odds of +151 is an intriguing bet along with the five game series at +140 .
Golden State Warriors To Beat Utah Jazz
Golden State Warriors To Beat Utah Jazz 4-1
Series To Be Decided In Five Matches