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After win over the Timberwolves, Jazz turn their focus to Stephen Curry and the Warriors

The Saturday night matchup will be a test between the league-leading Golden State Warriors and the Utah Jazz who are just 1.5 games behind them in the standings

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry brings the ball up against the Denver Nuggets.
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry brings the ball up against the Denver Nuggets during the second half of an NBA basketball game in San Francisco, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021.
Jeff Chiu, Associated Press

The Utah Jazz have their first meeting of the year with the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.

Sure, the Warriors are missing some players due to health and safety protocols and Klay Thompson hasn’t made his much anticipated return, and the Jazz are dealing with some bumps and bruises and will play Golden State on the second night of a back-to-back, and yes this is just one game of a grueling 82-game season and there’s a lot that could change for both teams between now and the postseason.

None of that matters. This is a big game.

This is the kind of game that serves as a barometer for a team like the Jazz. It can show how close they are and how far they have to go, it can be valuable to look back on once the postseason rolls around and it could really end up mattering for playoff seeding.

“The top two in the West right now so it’s a cool challenge for us,” Rudy Gobert said after the Jazz’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. “We know that it’s a long season. But it’s definitely one of those games that at the end of the season when you look back you want to win those and give yourself a chance to get that first seed.”

The Warriors arrived in Utah on Friday night, after a practice day spent in Denver following the postponement of their Thursday night game against the Nuggets (Denver didn’t have the required eight players available to play). They head into Saturday’s game against the Jazz with a league-leading 27-7 record.

“They’ve had some time to kind of study us and load up on us and rest a little bit with their game being postponed,” Donovan Mitchell said. “We’ve got to come out with the energy because they’re going to have it, they’re going to have the juice. It’s a big game. There’s no secret about it, it’s a big game.”

The Warriors will be without Draymond Green and Damion Lee, who are both in health and safety protocols, as well as Thompson (right ACL) and James Wiseman (right knee meniscus). But being short handed has not hampered the Warriors this season with Stephen Curry playing at an MVP level once again.

“Steph is playing at an all time level…all those guys are really playing at a high level,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think people expected them to be this good. We knew they were going to be good, but they are playing really outstanding and we’ve got to be ready for it.”

Mitchell scored a season high 39-points on Friday night against Minnesota, leading the Jazz to a sixth straight win and a 26-9 record for the 2021-22 season, just 1.5 games behind the Warriors.

When asked about the task ahead, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder told local reporters that he understands once the playoffs begin that no one will be thinking about the regular season and that the general consensus is that regular-season games don’t matter. But for Snyder, every single one of the 82 regular-season games matters and when the Warriors are the team across from the Jazz, it’s certainly not a meaningless game.

“Competition is a mirror and playing against these guys is obviously a challenge,” Snyder said. “They’re such a good team. It’s an opportunity for us to compete and grow.”