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Oakland, Calif • Missing three starters, missing a key reserve and enduring limited minutes from their starting point guard, the Utah Jazz were undermanned Monday night against the best team in the NBA.
Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors missed the game with a myriad of injuries. Raul Neto, who projects to be Utah's primary backup point guard in the playoffs, was out with a sprained ankle.
Point guard George Hill returned to action after missing a handful of games, and he was wonderful, scoring 20 points and handing out five assists. But he was also on a minutes restriction, which meant he played just 19 minutes.
Utah, however, has been in this position all season. The Jazz have played just 13 games with their preferred starting lineup, and they've made a living out of resiliency and winning through different makeshift lineups.
So a 105-99 win over the mighty Warriors at Oracle Arena certainly serves as a surprise on the surface. At the same time, it's just the type of victory the Jazz have made a living at creating.
In snapping the Warriors' season-high 14 game winning streak, Utah played physical defense, bumping cutters, challenging shooters, denying space and generally making life uncomfortable for Golden State, outside of Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.
On this night, the Jazz were crisp offensively, for the most part. They moved the ball, they limited possessions and kept the Warriors out of transition, where they are lethal. It added up to one of their best victories of the season, undermanned or not. A team that two nights before saw Damian Lillard score 59 points and the Portland Trail Blazers dominate them in every way responded when challenged.
As a result, the Jazz still have hope in the race for the fourth seed in the Western Conference, and the home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason that comes with it. The chances are slim, but there is a chance.
With the Los Angeles Clippers defeating the Houston Rockets at home, the Jazz have to defeat the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, while the Clippers have to lose at home to the Sacramento Kings.
Any other scenario, and the Jazz will begin the postseason on the road in Los Angeles.
"We just want to be healthy going into the playoffs," Snyder said before the game. "Everything is different as you get into the playoffs. But the biggest thing is, are we going to be healthy?"
In beating the Warriors, the Jazz received standout performances from several sources. Rudy Gobert was dominant, particularly in the second half. He finished with 17 points and 18 rebounds. He patrolled the paint defensively, and his energy and movement on the offensive end were too much for Golden State's big men.
Joe Johnson came off the bench and made several big shots. His 3-pointer with 1:19 remaining gave the Jazz a 101-94 lead that proved too much for the Warriors to overcome. He hit 5 of 7 from 3-point range and scored 19 points in 28 minutes. Johnson also grabbed five rebounds and handed out five assists.
Hill scored 10 of his points in the first quarter, and also hit 5 of 7 from 3-point range. More importantly, he looked healthy.
He looked like the George Hill from the beginning of the season. He had an explosive first step, and he looked ready for the playoffs.
Joe Ingles scored 11 points, adding seven assists and four rebounds. Shelvin Mack had 16 points off the bench, and Boris Diaw had 10 points and five rebounds.