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Jazz beat Warriors, take over No. 8 playoff spot

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. - Utah Jazz players had a hard time deciding Sunday night which was more enjoyable: watching the Los Angeles Lakers lose on television in the afternoon or beating the Golden State Warriors at night.

This much they knew for sure: Having both things happen within hours of one another was doubly satisfying.

The Jazz moved a half-game up on the Lakers in the duel for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, using a straightaway 3-pointer by Mo Williams with 13.4 seconds remaining to hold off the Warriors 97-90 in a big game in each team's postseason plans.

"We knew the Lakers lost," Williams said after his 25-point performance. "That was added motivation for us."

The Jazz (41-37), which pressured the Warriors into three critical misses in the final minute with the game on the line, not only leads the Lakers (40-37) but also has the tie-breaker advantage by virtue of their 2-1 season-series advantage over Los Angeles. The Lakers lost earlier in the day to the rival L.A. Clippers, 109-95.

The Jazz, which won for the seventh time in their last eight games Sunday, also finished off a 2-1 season-series win over the Warriors (44-33), which could come into play should the two finish in an improbable tie.

Golden State, meanwhile, had a chance to clinch a playoff berth - its first since 2007 - with a win, but failed to do so and fell back within one game of Houston (43-34) in their battle for the sixth spot in the West.

"They outplayed us," Warriors coach Mark Jackson admitted. "They played like a team that their playoff lives depended on this game. And we played at times like a team that had a cushion."

Williams' critical 3 was his third of the contest and capped his game-high performance for the Jazz, which never trailed in the final 2 1/2 quarters and led by as many as 11 points with 4:20 to go.

But Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry hit back-to-back 3-pointers for the Warriors to get them within 91-86 with 3:28 remaining. And when David Lee dropped in a layup off a Curry assist, the Warriors had closed to 93-90 with 1:21 to go.

Williams missed a jumper and Al Jefferson couldn't convert a follow shot, returning possession to the Warriors with a chance to tie as the clock went under 1:00.

But Derrick Favors blocked a Draymond Green layup, and Jarrett Jack, forced to fire up a desperation 3 with the shot clock about the expire, couldn't connect from 24 feet, setting up Williams' 3-pointer over Green, the Warriors' 6-foot-7 defensive ace, with 13.4 seconds left.

"That was his first time on me all night," Williams assessed. "I kinda walked him down a little bit and saw him on his heels. All I needed was a little space."

Curry misfired on another 3, and Paul Millsap completed the scoring by making one of two free throws with 4.9 seconds left.

"We knew what the situation was," a disasppointed Curry said of the possibility of clinching the playoff berth. "We were in front of our fans. You win, you're in and you can focus on getting better as the season goes on, knowing you get the "X" (for clinching the playoffs) by your name.

"Now we have work to do. We still control our own situation, which is good, but you don't want to have this feeling again. Come Tuesday, if that's the same situation, we've got to get it done and there's no excuses for us not to."

Jefferson had a 19-point, 12-rebound double-double for the Jazz, who finish the regular season with two home games (Oklahoma City and Minnesota) and then two on the road (Minnesota and Memphis). Gordon Hayward added 13 points, Favors 12 and Millsap 11 for Utah.

Favors also found time for 13 rebounds and three blocks.

"We want to make sure that we take care of what we can take care of," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin noted. "We can't control what the Lakers do or what anybody else does for that matter. We want to make sure we focus on what we need to do."

Williams knows it was a big day for the Jazz, but projects there are still many big days on the shrinking NBA calendar.

"It'll go down to the wire," he said. "The Lakers are a good team. It'll be interesting."

Curry (22), Lee (21) and Thompson (20) all scored 20 or more for the Warriors, who have three home games remaining (Minnesota, Oklahoma City and San Antonio) and two on the road (L.A. Lakers and Portland). Lee also had 13 rebounds.

"I've been waiting eight years for a night like tonight to have a chance to clinch and make the playoffs," said Lee, who has never played in an NBA postseason game. "It's going to happen another night. We're going to keep our heads up, but it was disappointing to lose this one."

The Warriors led by as many as nine in the second quarter before the Jazz finished the half on a 27-10 run. Williams contributed nine points to the burst and Favors eight.

NOTES: The Warriors, who shot 47.3 percent, lost for the first time since Jan. 13 when outshooting the opponent. The Jazz shot 45.5 percent. ... Sunday's third meeting between the Jazz and Warriors was totally unlike the first two matchups in its lead changes. The Warriors trailed only once en route to a 94-83 home win over Utah on Dec. 26, and the Jazz never trailed when it beat Golden State 115-101 in Salt Lake City on Feb. 19. Sunday, there were four lead changes in the first quarter alone. ... With Williams and Hayward hitting three apiece, the Jazz buried 11 3s in the game to extend their single-season club record to 486. The previous record: 439 in 2009-10. ... The Warriors dipped into the NBA Developmental League for some late-season help, snatching point guard Scott Machado from the Santa Cruz Warriors on a 10-day contract. Machado, 22, led the nation in assists as a senior at Iona in 2012. He never left the bench Sunday.
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