SALT LAKE CITY — An unlikely road win conjured up one final chance for the Utah Jazz to claim home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Utah snapped Golden State’s 14-game winning streak Monday night with a 105-99 victory. If the Jazz can follow it up with a victory over San Antonio in their season finale, they will be in position to finish as the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
Getting there requires a little help. Utah also needs the Los Angeles Clippers to lose to Sacramento. The teams are tied in the Western Conference standings and the Clippers hold the tiebreaker after winning the season series 3-1.
Article continues below ...
The Jazz (50-31) took an important step forward by defeating the Warriors at Oracle Arena even while playing without Gordon Hayward (left quadriceps contusion), Derrick Favors (left knee soreness) and Rodney Hood (right knee soreness). Utah, though, got a valuable boost from the return of starting point guard George Hill.
In his first game back from a groin strain, Hill led the Jazz with 20 points and shot 5-for-7 from 3-point range. Rudy Gobert added 17 points and 18 rebounds.
Beating a team such as Golden State while not at full strength offers a confidence boost to the Jazz going into the playoffs.
“We’re trying to play well going into the postseason,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder told reporters after the game. “We know how good they are. They’re the best team in the NBA, and they’re still the best team in the NBA. We just played well to win tonight.”
San Antonio (61-20) does not have anything at stake going into Salt Lake City other than pride. The Spurs are locked into the No. 2 seed and will finish with 60-plus victories for the third time in the last four seasons.
Still, San Antonio could use a jolt of momentum after suffering its third straight loss Monday. The Spurs fell 99-98 to Portland after Noah Vonleh scored a layup as time expired. A turnover by San Antonio in the final seconds opened the door for the Blazers to win it on Vonleh’s basket.
The Spurs were burned by a lucky bounce in the end. Shabazz Napier was stripped as he drove to the rim out of a timeout. The ball glanced off Myers Leonard’s knee and into the hands of Vonleh, who scored moments before the horn sounded.
“The ball was just fumbling around, and it ended up in his hands,” San Antonio forward LaMarcus Aldridge said. “They had the guy in the right place at the right time, and they got the win.”
San Antonio has won two of three games against Utah this season. The Spurs won the most recent matchup, 109-103 on April 2, behind 25 points and seven assists from Kawhi Leonard. In three games against the Jazz, Leonard has averaged 28 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
Utah is seeking its first home victory over San Antonio since defeating the Spurs 90-81 on Feb. 23, 2015, behind 23 points from point guard Trey Burke.