Warriors 126, Jazz 102
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Don Nelson has no interest in percentage points, games in hand or playoff projections. The Golden State coach simply wants his Warriors to play five good games to close their most compelling season in 13 years.
And the first of those five games stirred long-lost playoff chants from the long-suffering fans who haven’t forgotten how to get ready for the postseason.
Monta Ellis and Matt Barnes scored 16 points apiece for the Warriors (38-40), whose eighth victory in nine home games put them in eighth place in the Western Conference by a tiny margin over the Clippers (37-39), who lost to Dallas earlier. Golden State (.4872 winning percentage) nudged ever so slightly ahead of Los Angeles (.4868), which has two games in hand.
Nelson, the last coach to get Golden State into the postseason back in 1994, didn’t care about those numbers. He was more interested in the Warriors’ 55-percent shooting and Utah’s 25 turnovers.
“It’s still out of our hands, basically,” Nelson said of their playoff hopes. “It doesn’t mean anything. We have to not get too high on the highs and too low on the lows. We just have to take care of our business.”
His players weren’t quite so circumspect after blowing out Utah in the middle quarters of their fifth win in six games overall.
“The way we’re approaching it is we’re going to make the playoffs,” said Al Harrington, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds. “It’s a great feeling, especially for this city that hasn’t been there in a while.”
With 3 minutes to play, the remaining fans started a chant of “Playoffs! Playoffs!” for probably the first time in a decade.
And being back among the Western Conference’s top eight for the first time since Feb. 21 is no small accomplishment for a club floundering through the NBA’s longest current stretch out of the postseason.
But the Warriors have a chance for a strong finish: They don’t play again until Friday at Sacramento, and three of their final four games are in Northern California before a season-ending trip to lowly Portland.
Ronnie Brewer scored a career-high 21 points for the Jazz, who showed little playoff urgency while falling a half-game behind Houston for fourth place in the conference race and home-court advantage in the clubs’ probable first-round playoff meeting.
The Jazz have dropped four straight and 10 of 15 overall—including five of six since clinching the Northwest Division title. Utah coach Jerry Sloan remained rooted to the bench for most of the second half—a reliable sign of the 19-year veteran coach’s profound displeasure.
“They just outhustled us all the way around,” Sloan said. “They went after loose balls, and they made us turn the ball over. They were all over us defensively. I don’t know if I’ve seen a team play as quick as they were.”
Golden State hit 11 3-pointers, and Jackson—who had seven rebounds and five assists—scored 11 points in the third as the Warriors ran away from the struggling Jazz.
“We’re not playing our best basketball right now by any stretch,” Harpring said. “It seems like we were for a while there, and now we’re not. Hopefully we get over this hump.”
Golden State took control with a 25-4 run stretching over most of the second quarter, eventually turning a seven-point deficit into a 17-point lead in about 8 minutes. Utah couldn’t keep pace with the uptempo Warriors, who scored 37 points in the period.
Meanwhile, the Jazz’s resurgent season has hit a snag since they clinched their postseason spot. Utah has lost four straight to clubs with losing records, and has back-to-back games against Dallas and Phoenix looming on the weekend.
Golden State’s Josh Powell bruised his left eye during warmups when a ball hit him in the face. The Warriors said he would sit out, but the seldom-used forward played in the final minutes. … Utah’s Gordan Giricek scored four points in the first half, but sat out the second half with a sore left side. … The clubs split the season series, with each winning twice on its home floor.