NBA playoff preview for the Western Conference semifinals:
1. GOLDEN STATE (67-15): Home: 36-5; road: 31-10
First round defeated Portland Trail Blazers, 4-0.
5. UTAH (51-31): Home: 29-12; road: 22-19
First round defeated Clippers, 4-3.
Warriors won 2-1.
Golden State and Utah ranked second and third, respectively, in defensive rating this season. . . . The Warriors have won 19 of their last 20 games. Their only loss since March 11 was against the Jazz, on April 10 in Oakland.
The Warriors want to play as swiftly as they finished Portland in a first-round sweep, coasting with an 18-point average victory margin and providing eight days’ rest. The NBA’s top fastbreak team (24.7 points per game) could have transition play limited by Utah’s stingy defense, big frontline rebounding and shot clock-draining offense. The Jazz played at the NBA’s slowest pace this season and Rudy Gobert, the league’s best rim protector, should be recovered from a first-round knee sprain.
Utah star Gordon Hayward, who led a Game 7 victory over the Clippers on Sunday, struggles against Golden State with 39% shooting and a 12.6 scoring average in his career. George Hill is playing career-best basketball for Utah but the Warriors could hit their stride with restored health. Kevin Durant, Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes are back or due back, although Steve Kerr’s medical issues have Mike Brown serving as head coach indefinitely.
Paul Coro’s prediction
Warriors in five.