This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
By Ross Siler
The Salt Lake Tribune
OAKLAND, Calif.--They lost Carlos Boozer to injury in the second quarter, then Deron Williams to foul trouble a minute into the third quarter, yet the Jazz will head into their final game of the season tonight with the Western Conference heights still in reach.
With their 103-94 victory Tuesday over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena coupled with Denver's XXX-XXX loss to Phoenix, the Jazz will host the Suns tonight at with the possibility of finishing No. 2, No. 3 or No. 5 in the conference.
They found a way against the 26-55 Warriors thanks to contributions from Mehmet Okur (23 points), Paul Millsap (career-high 24 rebounds), Ronnie Price (14 points, nine assists, six rebounds) and Wesley Matthews (16 points).
With Phoenix's victory, the Jazz got the help they needed Tuesday and can win the Northwest Division and claim either the conference's No. 2 or No. 3 playoff seed by beating the Suns back at EnergySolutions Arena tonight.
The Jazz would finish second with a victory and a loss by Dallas tonight at home against San Antonio. If the Mavericks win, they would finish a game ahead of the Jazz at 55-27 even if Utah beats the Suns, who have won 13 of their last 15 games.
Either scenario would bring the added benefit of eliminating the possibility of facing the defending champion L.A. Lakers before the Western Conference finals. The No. 2 seed would bring the prospect of home-court advantage for at least two rounds.
At the same time, the Jazz would have to settle for the No. 5 seed should they lose to Phoenix. The Suns would finish 54-28 with the Nuggets claiming the No. 4 seed ahead of the Jazz in a tiebreaker, after winning the season series 3-1.
Should they finish No. 2 or No. 3, the Jazz would face either Portland or San Antonio in the first round. The Blazers will claim the No. 6 seed ahead of the Spurs with a victory tonight at home over Golden State or with a Spurs loss to the Mavericks.
Boozer had five points and four rebounds in the first quarter but left for the locker room to have his ribs X-rayed in the second quarter and didn't return. The Jazz said Boozer was suffering from a muscle strain in his right rib cage.
His availability for tonight's game was uncertain. Boozer has enjoyed a largely injury-free season, missing just three of 81 games before Tuesday. The Jazz already are playing without Andrei Kirilenko, out with a strained left calf.
The Jazz also Tuesday completed their first winning road season (21-20) since going 25-16 in 2000-01.
The Warriors closed to 89-82 with 7:07 remaining after Reggie Williams was fouled on a dunk by Price, then hit a jumper. Golden State could have trimmed the Jazz lead even more, but committed a turnover, leading to a Matthews dunk.
Williams went 1-for-6 in first quarter and was out of sorts in the second quarter, coughing up the ball and committing a clear-path foul, then sitting for the final 2:27 after picking up his third personal with an offensive foul.
The Warriors opened the game 1-for-11 on three-pointers before Devean George connected twice in the last 3:13 of the half. George also grabbed a rebound and ran outside to hit a fadeaway 19-footer at the buzzer and end the half tied 47-47.
Only 59 seconds into the third quarter, the Jazz lost Williams to his fourth foul. That didn't stop them from opening the second half on an 8-0 run, winning the quarter 30-22 and taking a 77-69 cushion into the fourth quarter after leading by as many as 13.
Price stepped in for Williams and logged 21 minutes in the second half. Matthews ran the floor, hit a foul-line jumper and blocked Reggie Williams in the quarter. C.J. Miles drilled a three-pointer off a Price kickout to make it 64-56 and had 16 points.
Okur returned after sitting out Friday in New Orleans with left Achilles tendinitis to lead the Jazz in scoring Tuesday. Okur hit a hook shot in the second quarter and followed up his own miss and banked in a fadeaway in the lane early in the fourth.
Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry went a combined 9-for-37 for the Warriors. Williams managed just 10 points and seven assists after totaling a season-high 19 assists in the Jazz's last game against Golden State.