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Inside the locker room, all of the televisions were dark, as an important piece of their playoff fate was decided in another city, in another state, 700 miles out of their control.

"I'm going to eat dinner," Rudy Gobert said. "I don't need to watch it."

The Utah Jazz did the only thing they could Wednesday night to keep their chances for home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason alive, beating the San Antonio Spurs, 101-97, thanks to some unlikely crunch-time performances from their reserves.

But the Jazz still needed help, in the form of a Clippers loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, in order to avoid having to open the playoffs at Staples Center on Saturday night.

They wouldn't get it.

Point guard Shelvin Mack, whose 11-point fourth quarter had sealed Utah's 51st victory of the year, wasn't interested in watching the second half play out in Los Angeles. Neither was Gordon Hayward.

"I'll probably just get a text tonight on what our schedule's going to be and go from there," he said.

That message would have come some time later in the night, after the Clippers had taken care of the short-handed Kings, 115-95. Home is where the heart is, but it's not where the Jazz will begin the postseason.

"It doesn't matter," point guard George Hill had said of the fight for home-court advantage. "If you want to win championships, you've got to win on the road."

The Jazz are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012, and will open their series Saturday in L.A. Game 1 is set to tip off at 8:30 p.m. MT, and will be televised on ESPN.

Perhaps most importantly, Hayward and company enter the postseason off wins over the first-place Warriors and the second-place Spurs, and as healthy as they have been this season.

"I think we're really confident right now, especially after the last couple of games we've played," said Hayward, who had 14 points Wednesday. "We know it's going to be a fight. It's going to be a challenge. It's good to go into it on a positive note."

Hayward and the rest of the Jazz starters watched from the bench as the team's second unit held off the Spurs' reserves for the final six minutes of the game, behind the play of Mack, guard Alec Burks and center Jeff Withey.

Afterward, Jazz coach Quin Snyder said he would have been prepared to give up home-court advantage so long as it meant making sure his starters got out of Wednesday's game healthy.

"The worst thing that would have happened is if someone would have come out of this game injured," Snyder said. "Then it wouldn't have mattered if we were playing in Alaska or Hawaii or Salt Lake."

In the end, the Jazz did their part but the Kings and Clippers wouldn't play along. The Jazz and Clippers each finished the season with 51 wins, with Chris Paul and company holding the tiebreaker thanks to a 3-1 record in the season series.

"You can always have regrets, but I think we did whatever we could," Gobert said of losing out on home-court advantage. "We tried to win all the games we could. We finished with 51 wins. It's a great accomplishment."

The Jazz finished the season in fifth place in the Western Conference. Their 51-31 record was the team's best since the 2009-10 season.

Now the Jazz hope to accomplish even more.

It has been five years since Hayward tasted the postseason, a four-game sweep at the hands of the Spurs that the forward said he choses not to often remember.

Now he shifts his focus to Los Angeles.

"Obviously they're a tough matchup because of how good they are as a team," he said. "I think any matchup we would have had would have been tough because the West is so loaded and so competitive. That being said, I'm looking forward to the challenge and excited to be back in the playoffs. It's been a while."

The memories of the postseason, meanwhile, are more vivid for the veteran point guard Hill, who had some advice for his teammates.

"It's the real season now," he said. "It starts now."

Twitter: @aaronfalk —


R Point guard Shelvin Mack scores 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter to help the Jazz win their 51st game of the season.

• The Jazz open their first-round series with the Clippers on Saturday in Los Angeles. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. MT.