Don’t try to convince Mike Brown he has it easy.
He’s the Golden State Warriors acting head coach, given the task of guiding a team with four All-Stars while head coach Steve Kerr tries to recover from issues related to back surgery two years ago.
The Warriors beat the Utah Jazz on Thursday at Oracle Arena, winning 115-104 in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinals matchup.
But don’t be fooled by the final margin. There were plenty of things Brown could have been worried about. So he didn’t exactly agree with a reporter, who asked how he’d keep the Warriors focused after having not been challenged in the postseason.
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Logical question for a team with a 2-0 lead in the series and that has won all six of its playoff games, right?
Well, not exactly.
“You know, it wasn’t easy,” Brown said. “We felt it. We know we can play better. We broke down in a lot of areas where we should have been better. But in the same breath, too, yes, we did some nice things. We had 33 assists. We held them to five offensive rebounds. And then, at the end of the day, we got the W.”
The Warriors can feel good heading into Game 3, but didn’t like committing 17 turnovers Thursday. Golden State committed 24 turnovers in its previous three games.
The turnovers helped a normally methodical Utah offense put up points after falling behind 33-15 after the first quarter. Utah scored 22 points off Warriors miscues.
Still, the Warriors have not trailed in the series.
The Warriors led wire-to-wire for the second consecutive game, building a 20-point lead in the first half. Utah cut the deficit to 63-57 with 9:55 left in the third quarter, but would get no closer. The Jazz pulled within seven at 109-102 with 2:05 to play, but could not complete the comeback.
“Some of our guys hit big shots to keep stretching the lead once they pulled within a few points,” Brown said. “So I give our guys credit. They hung in there. They found a way to win. Anytime Utah went on a little run, they figured out how to stretch it just enough again to sustain it for a while until Utah went on another run.”
The Warriors are in control of the series, but do not expect the Jazz to simply accept defeat, especially with Games 3 and 4 in Utah.
“This is the playoffs,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “You’re not going to blow a team out every night and it’s going to be a dogfight until the end.”
Kevin Durant led the Warriors with 25 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Draymond Green had 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Curry had 23 points and seven assists.
For Utah, it helped having All-Star forward Gordon Hayward look more like himself. He had 33 points after struggling in Game 1. Center Rudy Gobert, who dealt with knee and ankle injuries in the first-round series with the Los Angeles Clippers, finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds.
Utah was without starting point guard George Hill (sprained/sore left big toe). Shelvin Mack started for Hill and had 14 points and four assists.
Still, Utah trailed big and was unable to take control of the game for significant stretches. The Jazz don’t have much margin for error against the Warriors and falling behind big early hasn’t helped.
“So hopefully, whether it’s in Salt Lake or here, we’ve got to be better at the start of games,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “And I think that means being more aggressive on offense. If you’re not, they really capitalize going the other way. So hopefully that will be the case.”