From Comcast SportsNetLONDON (AP) -- The Miracle of Medinah.One of sport's greatest comebacks was celebrated across the continent with those words Monday after Europe's historic and emotional victory over the United States in the Ryder Cup.Nowhere was the win more special than in Spain, the home of European captain Jose Maria Olazabal and the inspirational late Ryder Cup stalwart Seve Ballesteros."This one is for you, Seve," ran the front-page headline of Spanish sports daily Marca, echoing the thoughts of Olazabal and all of Europe's players who overcame a 10-4 deficit late Saturday afternoon to win 14 12-13 12 in Medinah, Ill.Ballesteros, who died from a brain tumor in May 2011, was everywhere Sunday. His image adorned European bags and shirts, his name was sung by Europe's fans well into the night and his spirit was invoked by players wearing the navy trousers and white polo shirt that were the Spaniard's trademark.His name was on everyone's lips Monday, too."What happened yesterday went beyond sports -- what that group of individuals achieved was incredibly difficult," Ivan Ballesteros, Seve's nephew and vice president of the Seve Ballesteros foundation, told The Associated Press by telephone. "We want to thank Jose Maria for remembering Seve not just throughout the week but for always keeping his memory alive."Ballesteros' family kept it simple on their official website with the message: "Thanks Europe, Thanks Jose Maria."The British media, already spoiled by an unprecedented summer of sporting success this year that included the London Olympics, added another memorable triumph to the list."After London 2012, Bradley Wiggins, Andy Murray and the rest, we were due an anti-climax. But this sporting year is incapable of dullness, one-sidedness, hollow drama," the Daily Telegraph said.Britain had heroes everywhere -- from Luke Donald beating Bubba Watson in the opening singles to the tight victories secured by Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood.Justin Rose beat Phil Mickelson with a birdie at the 17th that was perhaps the key turning point Sunday. And then there was Ian Poulter, who started Europe's charge by making five straight birdies in the final match of Saturday's fourballs to take a crucial point and leave the score at 10-6 going into the final day."I'm officially taking two years off and I'll see you at the next one," said Poulter, who won a match-high four points and was labeled the "modern-day Seve" by McIlroy.It was a German, Martin Kaymer, who rolled in a putt on the 18th hole to beat Steve Stricker on Sunday and ensure that Europe retained the cup."I never had such a feeling before," Kaymer said. "I'll never forget it and I'll be telling my grandchildren about it."Pictures of the German celebrating his putt -- pumping both fists -- were splashed across newspaper front pages."Wunderbar," blared the headline in Britain's Daily Express.With a nod to Europe's economic troubles, the Irish Times said: "Martin Kaymer, a cool German, gave Europe a massive bailout that contributed to the most unlikeliest comeback in Ryder Cup history."Twitter was awash with Ryder reaction from sports personalities past and present who stayed up late to cheer on Europe from afar."The victory was epic!" Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, a keen golfer, tweeted.Paul Casey, an English golfer who played in three Ryder Cups from 2004-08, added: "Woke up this morning and it wasn't a dream. The most amazing Ryder Cup ever! Well done lads, especially JMO."Four-time Olympic rowing gold medalist Matthew Pinsent of Britain offered his own take."Ironic that in the cold light of morning the US played better in the team formats than we did and EUR were great individually,'" Pinsent tweeted.Belgium -- hardly a golfing stronghold -- reveled in having one of its own in the winning lineup. Nicolas Colsaerts was a virtual unknown in Belgium a few months ago, but Europe's biggest hitter graced the front pages of two of the country's main newspapers Monday after making a memorable debut that included beating Tiger Woods in Friday's fourballs."After beating Tiger Woods on Friday, Colsaerts could celebrate again last night," boasted Belgium's Het Laatste Nieuws.The 2012 match, though, will forever be remembered as the one where Europe did Seve proud.Olazabal failed to fight back the tears Sunday as he dedicated victory to his close friend and playing partner at the closing ceremony. On Monday morning, "Ollie" surfaced with bags under his eyes, clutching the cup."If someone had to write a script for it, that would be the ideal one," Olazabal said. "For that to happen, Seve had to have something to do with it."
So the Golden State Warriors don’t get a commuter series after all, and they get to play a team that plays as slow as they play fast, and they get to play at altitude – all things we will pretend matter greatly when this Western Conference semifinal series begins Tuesday night.
Well, let’s calm down a bit. It almost certainly won’t.
The Utah Jazz is not an easy out, not by a long shot. For one, they are not a mere shard of their former selves as the Clippers would have been. For two, they are pretty damned healthy as playoff basketball teams go. And for three, they are Memphis-funky, by which we mean like the Grizzlies, they pose conundrums unlike most teams that take awhile to break down and reassemble in a more digestible form.
On the other hand, they are not of Warrior quality, and though that seems frankly too smug by half, it is nonetheless true.
Now while the Golden States have their own issues – Steve Kerr’s head, Kevin Durant’s calf and Stephen Curry’s shoes – the Jazz are counterpunchers in the parlance. Not good enough to knock you out, but good enough to make you punch yourselves into exhaustion.
Golden State is 14-4 against the Jazz in the last five years, but it is the last year that counts most because this is the season in which the Jazz decided to attack the Warriors from beyond the three-point arc rather than the more traditional Rudy Gobert-Derrick Favors-low block route. Thus seems counterintuitive, especially when you consider that the one game Utah won, the 81st game of the season, they took 38 threes without Gordon Hayward playing, but head coach Quin Snyder has shown himself to be a more flexible coach than the one who collapsed at the college level.
But the way to understand the Jazz is not concern oneself with what they do but with what they will attempt to prevent the Warriors from doing. The Jazz ranks 2nd in threes allowed and percentage of those threes made, and they also rank a demonstrative last in pace.
So what we’re really talking about here, for those who want to get beneath the we’re-better-than-you-are nyah-nyah-nyah level, is whether Utah can make Golden State what it wants rather than the other way around. If Utah gets its way, the scores will be in the high-nineties, low-hundreds range, as they are 37-10 holding the opponent under 100 points (including the Clipper series), while the Warriors were held under 100 only six times.
Conversely, the Warriors held 29 teams under 100, and were 27-2 in those games, so the Warriors are actually more efficient than Utah even at a languid pace.
In other words, the Warriors are better at what Utah does than Utah is, which is probably why you will see and hear lots of smug this week and next among all non-Warrior employees. Barring injury, or Mike Brown quitting coaching and turning the job over to . . . well, actually the only name that might even pose a threat here is Quin Snyder . . . the Warriors have no business being extended beyond five games.
But that was the logic that fans took into last year’s Oklahoma City series, and the Memphis series before that. Not every series is 2016 Houston or 2015 New Orleans, and no titles are ordained, as anyone who watched the last five minutes of Game 7 last year an grumpily testify.
In other words, Utah will make this harder than it looks, even if it doesn’t end up looking that hard, if that makes any sense, which it actually doesn’t.
Just trust us on this. Utah lost 10 games by double digits this year. They fall reluctantly and with considerable rancor. But these are the Warriors, and ultimately, the chances are considerable to the point of prohibitive that they will indeed fall.
OAKLAND -- Though the Warriors marched through the first round of the playoffs, winning by an average of 18 points while sweeping Portland, the second round shapes up to be considerably more difficult.
The Utah Jazz are much deeper, play some of the best defense in the NBA and play their home games at altitude, which partially explains why only five teams posted better records at home.
That the Warriors won two of the three regular-season meetings is somewhat inconsequential. In two of those games, Utah was without All-Star forward Gordon Hayward and starting point guard George Hill. Power forward Derrick Favors missed all three games.
Regardless of the results of this series, there definitely will be a different look.
Here is our preview of the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals series (first-round statistics in parenthesis):
POINT GUARD: Stephen Curry (29.8 points per game, 6.5 assists, 5.3 rebounds) vs. George Hill (16.9 ppg, 3.7 apg, 4.1 rpg): Hill’s availability was been crucial to the regular-season success of the Jazz; he missed 33 games. Utah was 15-1, however, when he scored at least 20 points. Curry may be the most dangerous scorer among all point guards, and he’ll be a load for Hill. EDGE: Curry.
SHOOTING GUARD: Klay Thompson (18.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg) vs. Joe Ingles (6.6 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.9 rpg): Aside from a couple brief hot streaks, Thompson struggled with his shot in the first round. He’ll fix that, and he’ll torch Ingles (or Rodney Hood). Ingles is crafty inside but of most concern when he’s beyond the arc. He has little chance of producing offense with Thompson as the primary defender. EDGE: Thompson.
SMALL FORWARD: Kevin Durant (21.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 apg) vs. Gordon Hayward (23.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.9 apg): Two All-Stars, only one of which is headed for the Hall of Fame. The Jazz, quite simply, have no answer for Durant’s offensive arsenal. Their best hope is that he is assigned to Hayward and has to expend energy on defense. EDGE: Durant.
POWER FORWARD: Draymond Green (13.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 7.5 apg, 4.3 blocks per game) vs. Boris Diaw (6.0 ppg, 2.6 apg, 1.7 rpg): Oddly enough, Diaw, because of his bulk and passing ability, is one of the few players who can give Green fits. Diaw won’t score much, but Utah could play through him at times. Green will try to run the big man off the floor. EDGE: Green.
CENTER: Zaza Pachulia (6.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg) vs. Rudy Gobert (8.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg): Pachulia will need plenty of help from his bench, and he’ll get it. His role will be to free up scorers for shots coming off picks. Opportunities will be there, because Gobert tends to hunker down in the paint. He’s a terrific shot-blocker, but don’t be surprised if the Warriors test him inside. EDGE: Gobert.
SIXTH MAN: Andre Iguodala (7.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg), 4.5 apg) vs. Joe Johnson (15.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.0 apg): This is a fun matchup of wily veterans who rely on profoundly different styles. While Iguodala plays fast and is disruptive on defense, Johnson is deliberate and offensive-minded and is playing very well. Johnson also is among the game’s best clutch shooters. Iguodala finds more subtle ways to make an impact. EDGE: Even.
BENCHES: The Warriors are about as healthy as they have been at any time over the past two months, which means they are deep with players capable of producing. Matt Barnes is ready and Shaun Livingston is set to return no later than Game 2. The Warriors have considerable size, and they’ll need it. JaVale McGee and David West will come in handy against the likes of Favors, Diaw and Gobert. Both benches were effective in the first round. EDGE: Warriors, but it’s slight.
COACHING: With Steve Kerr out indefinitely, Mike Brown remains as acting head coach. He has plenty of postseason experience, as does veteran assistant Ron Adams. Jazz coach Quin Snyder did a tremendous job in the regular season when a slew of injuries could have knocked the team off course. He also is coming off his first playoff series victory as a head coach. EDGE: Warriors, due to experience.
ORACLE VS. VIVINT: Oracle Arena was massive for the Warriors in their first round, at times waking thunderous echoes of the “We Believe” experience in 2007. Vivint Smart Home Arena has a well-earned reputation for hurling loud insults at visiting players. The Utah crowd had better be careful, though, because the Warriors tend to thrive off crowd abuse. EDGE: Oracle.
PREDICTION: Warriors in four, five if they get bored.