SALT LAKE CITY — It was nearly a perfect night for the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.
At about the same time as the Jazz were completing their 100-88 victory over Phoenix to clinch a spot in the playoffs, the Golden State Warriors were about to finish off a victory at home over the New Orleans Hornets and clinch an early first-round pick for the Jazz.
The Jazz hold the Warriors’ first-round pick as long as the Warriors don’t finish among the bottom seven in the NBA. A victory over the Hornets would have moved the Warriors to 24-41 on the year and assured them of no better than the eighth-worst record in the league.
Alas, the Warriors blew a five-point lead in the final 1:46, losing 83-81 on a goal-tending call with 0.7 seconds left. The Warriors, who would benefit by losing and getting a top-seven draft pick, went on a four-minute scoring drought during the fourth quarter and didn’t score at all in the final two minutes.
That leaves the Warriors one game ahead of New Jersey and Toronto, who play each other Thursday night in Toronto. So at least one of those teams will end up with a 23-43 record. Golden State plays host to San Antonio Thursday and with a loss, the Warriors would end up with a 23-43 record and tie for the seventh worst record.
If the Warriors end up in a tie at 23-43, then the league will flip a coin to determine the draft order. So for the Jazz to get a first-round draft choice — they lost their own by making the playoffs and must forfeit it to Minnesota — they need Golden State to beat the Spurs, who will likely be resting their starters. But who knows how motivated the Warriors will be to win and perhaps lose out on a No. 8 — or better — draft pick. If the Warriors lose, it would be up to a coin flip to see if the Jazz get a first-round pick or must wait until another year to get the Warriors’ selection.
As for the playoffs, they will likely begin for the Jazz either Saturday or Sunday in San Antonio.
Because of the shortened season, the NBA playoffs are expected to be more condensed than usual with games every other day. That means Jazz fans can expect to see games next week, either Wednesday and Friday or Thursday and Saturday.
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