SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz furious comeback came up short against the Golden State Warriors, falling 119-116 with three games left in the season.
Jordan Clarkson scored 41 points including 24 points in the fourth quarter to erase an 18 point deficit, but ultimately the Jazz fell to the Warriors in the final road game against a playoff opponent.
Steph Curry scored 36 points for Golden State including the go-ahead three-pointer with 15 seconds remaining to secure the game.
Clarkson Shows Why He Must Keep Shooting
Clarkson played one of his worst games of the season through the first three quarters of the game, scoring 17 points on 8-20 shooting including just 1-9 from the three-point line.
The Sixth Man of the Year favorite was team-worst -26 in his 24 minutes as the Jazz trailed by 14 points entering the fourth quarter.
Then, Clarkson proved why even during his worst slumps, the Jazz need him to keep shooting.
Over his final 11 minutes of action, Clarkson scored a staggering 24 points on 8-13 shooting including 4-7 from the three-point line. After trailing by as much as 18 in the fourth, a Clarkson three with 1:11 left in the game gave the Jazz a 116-114 lead in what would prove to be their final points of the game.
Without Donovan Mitchell who missed his 13th consecutive game with an ankle injury and Mike Conley who has now missed six straight games with a hamstring injury, the Jazz offense has relied heavily on Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic.
Without their two lead guards, the Jazz simply struggle to create looks off the dribble. When teams slow down Rudy Gobert in the pick and roll, as the Warriors did with their switch-heavy defense, the number of ways the Jazz can generate offense dips significantly.
Royce O’Neale, Miye Oni, and Derrick Favors don’t create shots for themselves. Trent Forrest can get to the rim, but when defenders sag off of him, he’s relegated to passing to looking to others to score.
Georges Niang and Joe Ingles can create some off the dribble, but that his heavily reliant on their three-point shooting, and the two combined to 2-10 from deep against the Warriors.
Gobert can score in the pick and roll but was held to just six shots in 30 minutes as the Warriors prevented him from getting the ball. While Gobert is the most efficient scorer in the NBA, he’s reliant on
That leaves the Jazz to be reliant on Clarkson to carry the offensive burden. Sometimes, that results in the guard scoring 17 points on 8-20 shooting over 24 minutes, and others, he scores 24 points on 13 shots in 11 minutes. Either way, he needs to continue to shoot as long as Mitchell and Conley miss games.
Three Games To Play, 1.5 Game Lead
With three games left to play, the Utah Jazz have a 1.5 game lead over the Phoenix Suns for the top seed in the Western Conference. The Jazz magic number sits at three, meaning any combination of three wins or three Suns losses will secure the top seed in the playoffs for Utah.
Here what the remaining schedule looks like for the two teams entering the final six days of the regular season.
Wednesday: vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Friday: @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Sunday: @ Sacramento Kings
The Jazz will host Portland in their final home game of the season before traveling to face the Thunder and Kings on the road. The Jazz are a perfect 6-0 against these teams this year but only one victory came without Conley and Mitchell.
Portland has won eight out of nine games coming into the matchup with the Jazz, including a 140-129 victory over the Houston Rockets on Monday.
The Jazz have played two difficult games against the Thunder as second-year Lu Dort has averaged 34 points in the team’s two meetings. Oklahoma City is actively tanking and has lost 21 of their last 22 games, but will be on two days rest before hosting the Jazz.
The Sacramento Kings could be looking for revenge when they face the Jazz on the day of the regular season. The Kings suffered their worst home loss in franchise history on April 28 when the Jazz beat them 154-105.
The Jazz were without Mitchell or Conley while the Kings were without De’Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes. Sacramento will likely be out of the running for a playoff spot by the time the two teams face-off but could be playing for pride.
If they were to beat the Trail Blazers and Thunder, while the Suns lose one of their next three games, this game could be a formality for the Jazz.
Tuesday: @ Golden State
Thursday: vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Saturday: @ San Antonio Spurs
Sunday: @ San Antonio Spurs
Phoenix will travel to face the same Warriors team who the Jazz just lost to but will have the advantage of being on a day’s rest while Golden State will be playing the two best teams in the NBA on back-to-back nights.
The Suns then return home to host the Trail Blazers who like the Warriors, will be playing on consecutive nights after facing the Jazz the night before, once again with the advantage of an extra day of rest.
Phoenix closes the season with back-to-back midday road games against the San Antonio Spurs who will be fighting for seeding in the play-in tournament over the final two days of the season.
The Suns are a combined 4-1 against these opponents this season, but suffered one of their worst losses of the season to the Spurs on April 17, 111-85.
With six days left in the regular season, the Jazz are in the driver’s seat to win the west, but it won’t be an easy road.