Surging Utah takes Warriors’ final home game
OAKLAND – The Utah Jazz are heading into their most important game of the season possibly without their best player. Home-court advantage could be on the line.
Mehmet Okur had 23 points and seven rebounds, Paul Millsap grabbed a career-high 24 rebounds and the Jazz swept the three-game season series against Golden State with a 103-94 win over the Warriors on Tuesday night despite losing leading scorer Carlos Boozer to an early injury.
Utah and Phoenix are tied for third place in the Western Conference at 53-28 heading into their season-ending matchup Wednesday night at Salt Lake City – so the result will determine both teams’ playoff seedings. If the Jazz win and Dallas loses its season finale at home against San Antonio, Utah would earn the No. 2 seed.
“We’re going to see who’s the tougher team tomorrow,” Utah’s Ronnie Price said. “The good thing is it’s in our building. We’ll see who’s tougher. It would be a good momentum swing for us going into the playoffs. This is going to be a big test for us.”
Coach Jerry Sloan gave no indication of Boozer’s status for Wednesday’s game. Utah, riding a 10-game home winning streak, could be as high as the No. 2 seed or fall to fifth.
“Probably a month and a half ago there wasn’t much thought of that,” Sloan said of being the second seed. “That’s why you try to tell guys just keep playing, working and stay together and hopefully you have an opportunity. … We just have to play and play extremely well.”
Boozer strained a muscle in his right ribcage while playing all 12 minutes of the opening period. He was taken to the locker room for X-rays at the start of the second quarter but didn’t return. He had five points and four rebounds before departing.
Boozer declined to comment as he slowly left the locker room, but gave a statement to the team.
“I’ve got a sharp pain in my right side under my ribcage,” he said. “I will have an MRI tomorrow to see what it is. It happened at the end of the first quarter. I didn’t get hit. It just happened.”
Wesley Matthews added 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots and CJ Miles had 16 points and seven rebounds for the Jazz, who held a commanding 61-35 advantage on the boards. They have won last three meetings with the Warriors and three in a row on Golden State’s home floor in Oracle Arena. Utah, playing its first game in four days, finished with a 21-20 road record and won 14 of its last 22 away from home.
Devean George scored a season-high 21 points for the Warriors, who shot 38.1 percent – and 7 of 23 from 3-point range – and committed 14 turnovers. Leading scorer Monta Ellis went 4 for 22 and had 14 points.
Golden State couldn’t get coach Don Nelson career win No. 1,335. Last week at Minnesota, Nelson passed Lenny Wilkens to become the NBA’s winningest coach.
Nelson reiterated before the game he plans to return for a final year next season and fulfill his contract. He is committed to developing this young team to pave the way for an easier transition for his successor. General manager Larry Riley said he expects Nelson to return barring any unforeseen circumstances, though the franchise has been put up for sale by owner Chris Cohan.
A new ownership group could be in place by the start of next season, yet it always takes time for NBA approval.
The Warriors finish the season Wednesday night at Portland.
“The season is what it is,” Nelson said. “You just do the best you can and get the most out of your team and you accept your fate.’
“Next season, boys!” one fan yelled in the final minute.
The Warriors handed out there jerseys to season ticketholders afterward and pulled on new gray T-shirts reading “Road to Achieve.”
“With what we have been doing the last two months with short-handed guys, it has been great,” Ellis said, adding of his outing, “It’s bad, yeah it’s disappointing but we’ve got tomorrow’s game to make it up and try to get a win.”
NOTES: Jerry Sloan is 63-31 against the Warriors. … Stephen Curry extended his NBA rookie record for 3-pointers to 162 by making one. His mom was in attendance. … Golden State finished 18-23 at home this season. … Boozer led the Jazz in scoring in each of the previous two games vs. Golden State this season. … The NBA took back Charlotte Bobcats broadcaster Dell Curry’s rookie of the year vote because his son, Stephen, is among the leading candidates for the award. He and Kings G Tyreke Evans are considered the front-runners to be top rookie. The NBA says the league will replace Curry with another voter who covers the Bobcats. … The Warriors drew 19,230 in their final home game and averaged 18,027 fans over 41 home dates – the fifth straight season the franchise has done so.
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