For most of the evening in Utah on Wednesday, Gordon Hayward and the Jazz looked primed to do what only six teams have been able to do all season: take down the Golden State Warriors. But a late surge from the defending champs proved to be too much for Utah to overcome.
Gordon tallied 21 points including a clutch three to put the Jazz up three with just 1:26 to go. However, the Warriors rallied to force overtime on a second chance shot from beyond the arc by Klay Thompson that tied the game at 89. Utah had a chance to win the game, but a try from Shelvin Mack was blocked and No. 20’s desperation heave with 0.5 seconds to go missed the mark, sending the game to an extra session. G-Time scored the first bucket of overtime, but a 12-2 Golden State run followed to put the game out of reach for Utah in a 103-96 defeat.
The loss pushed the Jazz into a three-way tie with the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks for seventh and eighth playoff spots in the Western Conference. Afterward an exhausted No. 20, who played 46 of the game’s 53 minutes and added four rebounds, three steals and an assist to team-high point total lamented the loss while noting his team’s encouraging effort despite the disappointing result.
“It’s tough. Felt like we played well enough to win tonight. Didn’t get the plays we needed to down the stretch to secure the win,” Gordon said. “They are a good team and they hit the shots they needed to.”
That’s something a Golden State team with its sights set on establishing a new record for most wins in a season has become known for during the 2015-16 season. Wednesday night’s comeback to earn their 68th victory of the year was just the latest example. At 68-6 through 74 games, Golden State is on pace to break the NBA record mark set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who won 72 games.
However, the Jazz nearly derailed that run at history.
Utah got off to a solid start in the first and Gordon scored his first basket of the game on an jumper from downtown that put the Jazz in front 10-4. Moments later, after buckets by Stephen Curry and Thompson had cut the Utah lead to just one, G-Time’s buried a step-back jumper to make it a 12-9 four-and-a-half minutes into the contest.
However, Golden State followed that bucket by No. 20 with a quick 10-0 run to claim a seven-point advantage. The Warriors led by as many as eight in the first, but by the end of the first, the Jazz had cut their deficit to five, and went into the second quarter down 26-21.
Early in the frame, Golden State reserves ballooned their lead and behind a red-hot Leandro Barbosa, established a 10-point edge, their largest of the evening. But Utah used the rest of the quarter to chip away at the lead and at one point pulled ahead. Gordon was held without a field goal in the frame, but created in other ways with an assist, a steal and a perfect trip to the charity stripe.
His assist went to Derrick Favors, who buried a jumper to make it a five-point game. Shelvin Mack followed with one of his own to cut the deficit to three, but Curry answered with a trey to double the Warriors lead. But the Jazz got it going late in the half. Their run started with a dunk by Rudy Gobert and on the next trip G-Time drew a foul that got him to the line, where he went 2-of-2 to pull the Jazz to within two. Seconds later, after the Utah defense got huge stop, a Rodney Hood triple gave the Jazz their first lead since early in the first frame.
However, that edge was short-lived as Harrison Barnes answered with a trey to make it 42-40 Warriors, and despite cooling Golden State down, forcing them to play at a slower pace and outscoring them 19-16 in the second frame, the Jazz still trailed by two at the break.
Still Utah took some confidence into the locker room and emerged revitalized and ready to change the tenor of the game. On the first possession of the third, they forced a turnover and seconds later, Favors scored on a layup to tie the game at 42.
From there, Gordon and the Jazz went to work establishing a lead.
No. 20 did just that after the Utah defense got another stop. On the other end, he buried his second trifecta of the contest to put the Jazz ahead by three. That trey kicked off a mini 7-0 run to put Utah up seven, and they carried the lead from there to the final minutes of regulation. Refusing to let the Warriors play at their pace, the Jazz stayed on the offensive after gaining the lead.
As he is known to do, Gordon attacked the interior of the Golden State defense off the dribble throughout the night, but he grew frustrated late in the third frame. On one such drive with 1:16 to go in the period, No. 20 drew significant contact, but came up empty with no basket and no whistle for a foul. Following the play, he pleaded his case to the officials, earning a technical foul.
The third quarter was a frustrating period for Gordon, but his teammates picked him up. Eight Jazzmen were in the scoring column in the third quarter alone, as they shot 57.9 percent collectively to claim a 29-21 advantage in the frame. As a result of their all-around success, the Jazz led by as much as 10 in the third and entered the fourth quarter with a 69-63 edge.
Boosted by the performance of his teammates in the third, Gordon rallied in the fourth and his contributions were vital to Utah’s success early in the frame. He pushed the lead back to six early in the frame with a cutting slam that made it a 71-65 game. On four separate occasions in the fourth, the Jazz got their lead up to eight, but they could never push it to double digits or put the game away and eventually that failure came back to bite them.
After a tip in by Gobert put Utah in front 82-74 with 6:18 to go, the Warriors started to chip away at the lead. Curry answered immediately with a bucket to again make it a two-possession game. Harrison Barnes then trimmed the Jazz lead to five with a free throw and moments later an Ian Clark trey brought Golden State within two with about five minutes remaining.
However, Gordon answered the call on the ensuing Utah possession and buried a nice step-back jumper that pushed the margin back to four points. A 1-of-2 trip to the line by Gobert made it a five-point game, but the Warriors scored the next five points, capped by a Draymond Green layup that tied the game at 85. Both teams missed a chance to take the lead on their next possession, but given new life, Gordon refused to let a second chance go by the wayside.
Controlling possession at the top of the key, Gordon went to his right and fooled Shaun Livingston into going under a Rodney Hood screen, leaving G-Time wide open for a trey, which he buried to put the Jazz up by three with under 90 seconds to play. Steph Curry made a free throw cut cut it to two, but shortly thereafter, Gordon came up with a clutch defensive play when he tied up Curry and registered one of his three steals on the MVP favorite. On the other end, Shelvin Mack matched Curry’s free throw, making it again a three-point gap with 24.3 second to go.
On Golden State’s final possession of regulation, the Jazz held strong on defense, forcing a Thompson miss from beyond the arc. But the long-armed Shaun Livingston pulled in the rebound and kicked back out to Thompson for a second chance and the All-Star buried the catch-and-shoot three to tied it at 89.
On the final possession of regulation, Utah head coach Quin Snyder drew up a play that saw Gordon isolated up at the top of the key with Thompson. Mack came up top to work a pick-and-roll hoping to get a switch, but the Golden State defense didn’t flinch. With his chief option taken away, Gordon instead sent the ball down to Mack, who retreated to the corner and sent up a jumper that was blocked by Green.
“It was just a peel play—a pick-and-roll,” G-Time said. “I thought they were going to switch and Shel didn’t catch it cleanly and we didn’t get a good look.”
G-Time hustled toward the bounding loose ball, leapt up to corral it, and in one motion tossed up a desperation shot that was off its mark as the buzzer sounded.
The game went into overtime, where the Jazz couldn’t find any momentum.
They did pull out to a brief lead when Gordon stole the ball from Livingston on the opening possession, and on the other end knocked down a pullup jumper that opened the scoring in the extra session and put the Jazz up 91-89. However, the Warriors followed with a dominating 12-2 run that put the game far out of reach. Snyder admitted afterward that his team looked deflated after coming up short of the win in regulation and though Gordon was proud of his team’s fight, he couldn’t help but feel like they had let a signature victory slip from their grasp.
“We executed our game plan really well. We had they game where we wanted it,” Gordon said. “We just didn’t make the plays down the stretch that we needed to and they got the win.”
The loss marked the second time Hayward’s team went the distance against the first-place Warriors in Salt Lake City. The Jazz had the Warriors against the ropes on Nov. 30 but similarly fell 106-103. On the strength of those two close wins in Utah and a pair of the blowout variety on their home court in Oakland, Calif., the Warriors swept the season series with the Jazz, as they have to so many teams before them this year.
Coming so close twice is frustrating for G-Time and his teammates, but the Jazz still proved they can hang Golden State if the two teams were to eventually meet in the playoffs.
“I think we played our hearts out for sure. We’ve had chances to win both these games, just didn’t get the job done,” No. 20 said. “It’s frustrating.”
Gordon and the Jazz will have to shake off those feelings of frustration quickly as they still have seven games left in the 2015-16 season and they need to make as many as they can to ensure a spot in the NBA’s second season.
Their first opportunity to get back on track comes Friday, when they welcome the Minnesota Timberwolves (25-50) to Salt Lake City for the second meeting between the teams in less than a week. Last Saturday, the Jazz downed the T-Wolves on the road by a final score of 93-84 thanks to G-Time’s fourth quarter surge. Gordon impressively scored 16 of his 18 points in the final frame to help the Jazz edge Minnesota on the road.
Friday’s game will tip off at 7 p.m. MST from Vivint Smart Home Arena and will be aired on ROOT.
WESTERN CONFERENCE STANDINGS – 3/31
1. y – Golden State Warriors (68-7)
2. y – San Antonio Spurs (63-12) 5 GB
3. y – Oklahoma City Thunder (52-23) 16 GB
4. x – Los Angeles Clippers (47-27) 20.5 GB
5. Memphis Grizzlies (41-34) 27 GB
6. Portland Trail Blazers (39-36) 29 GB
7. Houston Rockets (37-38) 31 GB
8. Utah Jazz (37-38) 31 GB
y – Clinched division
x – Clinched playoff berth
- Gordon Hayward Postgame (Utah Jazz, Mar. 30, 2016)
- Game Book: Warriors at Jazz (NBA, Mar. 30, 2016)
- Warriors beat Jazz 103-96 in OT for No. 68 (AP, Mar. 30, 2016)
- Jazz prove that playoffs vs. Warriors would be fun (Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 30, 2016)
- The Roundup (Utah Jazz, Mar. 30, 2016)
- A lot of misses for the Jazz in rough OT loss to Warriors (Deseret News, Mar. 30, 2016)
- Curry comes up big for Warriors in OT as Jazz falter (Deseret News, Mar. 30, 2016)
- Overtime, Warriors too much for Jazz (Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 30, 2016)
- Warriors need overtime to beat Jazz (San Jose Mercury News, Mar. 30, 2016)