The Conference Semi-Finals are here as the Golden State Warriors take on the Utah Jazz in the second round.

The first round ended this past Sunday with Utah beating the Los Angeles Clippers handily at Staples Center in Game 7. After losing their first closeout game at home, they showed great resilience by going into Staples Center and getting a win. This was their first postseason series win since 2010, and they are now looking to shock the world by beating the juggernaut that is the Warriors.

The top seeded Golden State are well rested and ready to go. They are fresh off of a dominant sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in which their average margin of victory was 18 points.

The series did leave them with some questions going forward — the health of Steve Kerr is still in limbo, and whether or not he will return to the sidelines for the rest of the postseason is still undetermined. Kevin Durant also missed two games with a calf injury during the season, and was on a minutes restrictions during the final game of the series. The eight days of rest the Warriors had will surely help Durant going forward.

Keys for Utah

Utah must look to slow down Golden State early in games. They cannot allow them to get off to fast starts, or the games will be over quickly. The Warriors were the best first quarter team in the first round, and had a historically great quarter in game 4 — scoring 45 points. If Utah wants to be competitive, they must not allow Golden State to get huge leads early.

The Jazz’s defense is their greatest asset. During their three regular season match-ups, Golden State only managed to notch 103 points per game, which is way off of their 119.5 points per game average they put up during the regular season. The length of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert will be huge in disrupting shots at the rim.

Gordon Hayward’s offensive production will be huge in this series. He averaged 21.9 points per contest against the Clippers, but that average will definitely have to increase if they want to beat Golden State. This series will require Hayward to take his game to the next level.

Keys for Golden State

Golden State must look to push the pace, and get easy fast break opportunities. Utah was ranked 13th in pace during the first round of the playoffs. If Golden State can speed them up, and make them take quick, out-of-rhythm shots, they will be in great shape.

The Warriors must also dominate defensively in the paint like they did in the first round. The Blazers only shot 49-percent in the restricted area, which was the lowest rate of any team in the first round. Golden State were also first in blocked shots, averaging 10.3 during that series. Utah had three of the top 15 players in terms of field goal percentage in the first round. If Golden State wins the paint battle, they will dominate this series.

Prediction: Golden State in 5

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