OAKLAND, Calif. — On Tuesday night, the Phoenix Suns did the Jazz one rather huge favor — beating Denver to help keep alive Utah's hopes for finishing as high as second place in the NBA's Western Conference.
The Jazz did one for themselves too, beating Golden State 103-94 at Oracle Arena here behind Paul Millsap's career-high 24 rebounds and Mehmet Okur's 23 points in their final road game to set up one wonderfully wacky final night of the 2009-10 regular season.
If the 53-28 Jazz win tonight and the Dallas Mavericks lose at home to the San Antonio Spurs, Utah gets the No. 2 seed in the West, is champion of the Northwest Division for the third time in the past four seasons and opens the playoffs at home against either Portland or San Antonio.
If the Jazz beat Phoenix and Dallas wins too, division-champ Utah will be seeded No. 3, Dallas is No. 2 behind the defending NBA-champion Los Angeles Lakers and the Jazz would face Portland.
"Now we can take care of business," said point guard Deron Williams, whose foul trouble opened the door for backup Ronnie Price's 14-point, nine-assist night. "You know, Denver helped us out losing. Now we've just got to one more to win. We can't really worry about Dallas. We've just got to win (tonight's) game first."
If the Jazz lose tonight — no matter what Dallas does — Denver wins the division, Utah will be seeded fifth, and the Jazz start the playoffs on the road in a 4-5 series with the Nuggets.
"Go play and see," coach Jerry Sloan said. "That's what it's all about."
With Tuesday's win, the Jazz — a combined 32-50 away from home the past two seasons — also claimed their first winning road record since going 25-16 in 2000-01. They finished 21-20 this season when not playing at EnergySolutions Arena, where they're 32-8 with 10 straight wins.
The Jazz played the last three quarters without starting power forward Carlos Boozer, who exited with a muscle strain in his rib cage.
"I've got a sharp pain in my right side under my rib cage," Boozer said through a team spokesman. "I'm going to get an MRI (today) to see what it is.
"I didn't get hit," he added, saying the injury occurred at the end of the first quarter. "It just happened."
Enter Boozer backup Millsap, who pulled down 19 of his rebounds on the defensive end.
"I think everybody picked it up a little bit with his (Boozer's) absence," he said. "Some guys picked up the scoring, I picked up the rebounding and we just got it done."
The Jazz and the 25-56 Warriors were tied at 47 at the half, but only after Golden State veteran Devean George rebounded a Monta Ellis miss and scored from the right corner with a turnaround fadeaway over Kosta Koufos and Wesley Matthews.
Longtime Laker and ex-Maverick George seemed determined to make things as difficult for the Jazz, hitting a straight-up 3-pointer over Kyle Korver as well to trim Utah's lead — which had been as high as 12 earlier in the third quarter — to eight at 77-69 heading into the fourth.
The Jazz, though, never allowed the Warriors closer than within six during a final quarter in which Okur scored six and Millsap had four of his 24 boards.
"Huge," point guard Deron Williams said of Millsap's effort. "He didn't score a lot of points, but the rebounds were as big as anything that happened in the game."
"I'm not surprised," Sloan added with reference to Millsap's play. "That's who he is."32 comments on this story
MISC.: With a win tonight, Utah finishes with six more than last season — and match its total from the 2007-08 season. . . . The Jazz will honor late owner Larry H. Miller during a 22-minute halftime at tonight's game with ceremonies including a raising to the roof of EnergySolutions Arena a giant jersey with his old softball No. 9. Jazz players, however, won't be required to watch all or even any of the ceremony. "I think Larry would understand if he was here what guys have to do to get ready to play, probably as much as anybody that's never played in this league," Sloan said. . . . With would-be starter Corey Maggette out because of two sprained fingers, Golden State was down to just eight healthy players Tuesday. . . . Warriors guard Stephen Curry is a candidate for Rookie of the Year, so his father — Charlotte Bobcats broadcaster and ex-Jazz guard Dell Curry — had his vote reassigned by the NBA due to conflict of interest, the New York Times reported Tuesday.