At the end of the third quarter of the Utah Jazz against the Golden State Warriors, Jordan Poole threw up a halfcourt shot that banked in at the buzzer. Poole's three extended the Warriors' lead to 14 heading into the final quarter. For all that were watching the game, Poole's three felt like the dagger that would put the game away. The Warriors led by 18 with 8 minutes remaining - again it felt like the game was over. Then Jordan Clarkson came to life.
Clarkson brought the Jazz all the way back, and eventually gave the Jazz the lead with 1:47 remaining. The comeback effort was erased, however, when a late three by Steph Curry gave the Warriors a lead with 14 seconds remaining. The Warriors would go on to win 119-116.
With the loss, Utah's lead in the Western Conference standings was trimmed to 1.5 games. The Suns, who face the same Golden State team on the second night of a back-to-back tomorrow, have a chance to trim to the lead to 1.0 game tomorrow with a win.
For now, the Jazz don't have to worry about the Suns. They still control their own destiny in the Western Conference. The Jazz have only three games remaining:
vs Portland on Wednesday
@ OKC on Friday
@ Sacramento on Sunday
If they win out, the Jazz will be the #1 seed in the playoffs. It's that simple. If they lose, they will need the Suns to lose one game to maintain the top spot in the conference.
Wednesday's game against the Blazers will be important for the Jazz for reasons beyond the Western Conference standings. Yes, a win would give the Jazz a great chance at maintaining the #1 seed, but it would also bump the Blazers closer to the play-in game. As things currently stand, the Jazz would likely face either the Lakers or the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.
If the Jazz beat the Blazers on Wednesday, the Blazers could find themselves in the play-in game. The Blazers still have to face the Suns and the Nuggets to end the regular season. If they lose two of their last three games, they could be surpassed by the Lakers who face a much more favorable final stretch: vs Knicks, vs Rockets, @ Pacers, @ Pelicans.
In other words, a Portland slide to the end of the regular season could create a Jazz-Trail Blazers matchup in the first round - a matchup that feels more favorable for the Jazz than a first round draw against the Lakers.
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