But that doesn’t mean Golden State didn’t save some drama for their matchup against the NBA-leading Utah Jazz.
Stephen Curry had 36 points, while Jordan Poole chipped in with 20 to lead the Warriors to a big 119-116 win over the Jazz.
It shouldn’t have been this close. The Dubs played a wonderful 40 minutes and held an 18-point lead with eight minutes left in the game. That’s when Jordan Clarkson and the entire Utah squad came alive.
Led by Clarkson, the Jazz went on a furious 29-9 run and held a two-point lead after Clarkson scored 11 of his 41 points in the span of 1:26 to put Utah up 116-114. That’s when Curry delivered with a clutch 3-ball that put the Warriors up for good.
“For us to claw out of a situation like that, I don’t remember the last time we have done that. Everything on the books said we were supposed to lose that game the way that the fourth quarter went,” Curry said following the game. “Obviously, we got a great re-load (on the shot) I think (Wiggins and Looney) chased it down, threw it to Draymond [Green], with our connect, he knew exactly where I was going to go and got it to me on time ... it was a big one.”
Golden State fans were holding their breath when Utah got the ball back. Clarkson had been unstoppable all night and had a chance to give the Jazz the lead in the dying seconds.
But the Dubs played it perfectly. Green played great help-side defense and forced Clarkson to come up short on his attempt, which sealed the massive win for Golden State.
Head coach Steve Kerr was happy that his team stuck with it despite Utah’s late charge.
“We competed like crazy. Obviously Jordan Clarkson got going and we couldn’t stop him. He made some incredible shots and obviously put a big scare into us, but I love the way we competed,” Kerr said after the win. “We let them out of the bag a little in the fourth with Clarkson getting going and all the fouling ... our guys stayed with it. Steph made a big three on a night he didn’t really have it going ... hell of a win against the team with the best record in the league.”
It was an entertaining opening quarter that saw both teams go back-and-forth. Utah raced out to an early 17-12 lead. But led by Draymond Green, Golden State went on a run of its own to get back into the game.
Green and Curry combined for 18 points in the first as both teams shot 50 percent from the field. Jordan Poole hit a 3-pointer with 5.5 seconds left that gave the Dubs a 31-30 lead going into the second.
There was little separation between the two squads through most of the second period. The Jazz were carried by Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson on the offensive end. The duo combined for 27 points in the first half and helped Utah keep pace.
But the Warriors gave themselves some breathing room. They held the Jazz to just 41.3 percent shooting (6-of-24 from beyond the arc) over the opening 24 minutes and held a five-point lead at the break.
Utah came out of the locker room hot to begin the third. The Jazz tied things up at 59-59 less than four minutes into the period. Kerr took a time out to settle his guys down, and they responded.
Curry had 14 points in the third, while Kent Bazemore added 10 in the quarter and helped the Warriors close out the period on a 30-16 run to take an 89-75 lead into the fourth. The run was punctuated by this Pool heave at the buzzer.
With the Pelicans’ loss on Monday, Golden State clinched a spot in the NBA’s Play-In Tournament. Now, the question becomes which team they will play in the opening round.
The Dubs are hanging on to a 0.5-game lead over the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed. The two teams will play each other Sunday in the regular season finale.
If the Warriors fall down to No. 9, it means a likely matchup against the San Antonio Spurs in the first game of the tournament.
Golden State will also keep an eye on what happens with the No. 7 seed. The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Houston Rockets on Monday and hold a 1.5-game lead on the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers for sixth in the Western Conference.
The Warriors won’t have too much time to celebrate this win over Utah. They are right back at it with a tough test on Tuesday when they host Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns.
How are you feeling about the Dubs’ chances to get into the playoffs after this victory?