Golden State (21-52) at Utah (49-26)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Salt Lake City, UT
Temp: 27° F
  • Game info: 10:00 pm EDT Wed Mar 31, 2010
  • TV: ESPN, FSUT
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Utah Jazz have moved into sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division, a standing that would guarantee them home-court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Now they would like to stay there.

The Jazz can increase their lead with a win Wednesday night against the visiting Golden State Warriors, who are coming off their first road victory in nearly three months.

It remains to be seen where Utah (49-26) will finish amid the crowded cluster between second and fifth place in the West, but the outcome of Monday’s games helped.

While the Jazz beat New York 103-98, Denver lost at Dallas, pushing Utah one game ahead of the Nuggets for its first outright division lead of the season. Denver and Portland finished tied atop the Northwest last season, denying the Jazz a third straight title.

“Now that we’ve got it, it’s great, but we want to be in first come the end of the season,” Utah forward Carlos Boozer(notes) said.

The Jazz have clinched a fourth consecutive playoff berth, no surprise considering they have gone 30-9 since Jan. 9 - the NBA’s second-best record in that span behind Cleveland.

Boozer had 26 points and 14 rebounds against the Knicks for his 50th double-double, third most in the league. Point guard Deron Williams(notes) is seventh, notching his 41st with 23 points and 14 assists Monday.

Utah still needed to outscore New York 16-11 in the fourth quarter to earn its eighth straight home win.

“These teams are always dangerous. They’re not playing for anything,” Williams said. “They’re loose. They’re free. They have a lot of confidence and sometimes it’s tough to go up against them.”

The same could be said of the Warriors (21-52) as they play out the string. Golden State has won two of three, snapping a 13-game road skid with a 121-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.

The Warriors are hoping to push Don Nelson past Lenny Wilkens as the NBA’s winningest coach. Nelson needs two victories to match Wilkens’ total of 1,332.

Utah’s Jerry Sloan ranks fourth on the list with 1,186 wins.

“It might not be important to Don, but it’s important to us,” forward Corey Maggette(notes) said. “We’re just trying to play these games out as best we can and hopefully get the record for him. I know our guys are very conscious of it.”

Nelson’s fast-paced approach worked against the Clippers as Golden State shot 53.4 percent.

With leading scorer Monta Ellis(notes) out (flu), rookie guard Reggie Williams(notes) scored a game-high 25 points. Williams is averaging 14.9 points in 15 games since the Warriors signed him from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the Development League.

“He’s a special player - and here we got him out of the rock heap,” Nelson said. “I think he has a gift, and he doesn’t even know how big a gift he has.”

Golden State’s Stephen Curry(notes) ranks second among rookies with 16.5 points per game. He has averaged 21.7 in his last 23 contests.

The Jazz held Curry to 13 points in Utah’s 100-89 win in Oakland on Feb. 19, one of three times this season Golden State failed to reach 90 points.

The Warriors, however, won their last visit to Utah 118-108 on April 11, snapping a six-game skid there and improving to 6-40 in Salt Lake City since the start of the 1986-87 season.

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Wednesday, Mar 31