Warriors take care of Jazz in finale, brace for tough postseason path

Danny Emerman, The Mercury News on

Published in Basketball

SAN FRANCISCO — The Warriors sat both Steph Curry and Draymond Green, and still beat the lottery-bound Utah Jazz.

Klay Thompson dropped 19 in the first half and 25 in 20 minutes overall. The Warriors limited his and the other veterans’ minutes and let their deep bench ride in the second half.

No one in the Warriors’ playoff rotation played more than 23 minutes in a game that amounted more to a tune-up than anything. Golden State (46-36) avoided finishing the year with a losing record in Chase Center by beating the Jazz, 123-116.

The win didn’t mean much in the standings, as Golden State didn’t get help elsewhere. They’re heading to Sacramento on Tuesday for a single-elimination play-in game as the 10th seed. The winner will then travel to the loser of the 7/8 game between the Pelicans and Lakers for a chance to earn a full series against the top-seeded Thunder.

“I’ve got a good feeling about what’s ahead,” Steve Kerr said postgame. “I think we still have a chance to do something special. Obviously, it’s NCAA Tournament (style). You’ve got to get out of the first weekend here, win the first two to get to the first round. But we have a shot, so we’re excited about that.”

The 31-win Jazz, hours away from offseason vacation plans, ran out what was essentially an elevated G League team. The Warriors, resigned to an almost-certain 9/10 play-in fate, weren’t all too different. They finished the game with a lineup of Jerome Robinson, Pat Spencer, Usman Garuba, Gui Santos, and Lestor Quinones.

Santos got early minutes, as did Dario Saric — who has been out of the rotation for months. Golden State kept either Chris Paul or Thompson on the court at all times in the first half, maintaining a baseline level of competitiveness.

Jonathan Kuminga, who was questionable with a bruised right pelvic but warmed up and played, went scoreless but added a career-high seven assists in 23 minutes. He has missed seven games due to injury in the past few weeks, so getting him in rhythm for the postseason is a priority.


Within the Warriors organization, there was probably about as much scoreboard watching as there was stock into the game on the Chase Center floor. The results of the Kings and Lakers games — in addition to the Timberwolves and Nuggets at the top of the West — determined the Warriors’ upcoming postseason path.

The Warriors led by seven at halftime, while the Kings and Lakers each built comfortable halftime leads in their respective games. The play-in picture unfolded: Warriors as the 10th seed in Sacramento, with the winner traveling to the loser of Pelicans-Lakers.

Wins by the Kings and Lakers sealed the Warriors’ seed regardless of their result vs. Utah. The Jazz pulled ahead in the third quarter, and Steve Kerr played a lineup with Santos, Lester Quinones, and Pat Spencer. There was no point in putting unnecessary mileage on Thompson and Chris Paul’s legs.

Santos and Quinones made some plays, swinging the lead back in Golden State’s direction. In a back-and-forth final frame, Robinson’s and-1 and a bucket from Spencer cemented the victory.

Curry, Green, Thompson, Paul, and Wiggins watched the fourth quarter from the bench. The Warriors hope to play three games next week — two single-elimination bouts and the first game of a seven-game series. That outcome would be a grind, and those five won’t be spending much time on the bench for it.

“You can’t be intimidated by what’s in front of you, you’ve just got to embrace it,” Thompson said postgame. “We’ve been through everything together, whether it’s the 1 seed or starting a series on the road. It’s no different, really. It’s exciting, we’ve got a great shot to win in Sac, and then don’t look ahead, just try to take care of business in Sacramento.”


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