It was 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, but they are a good team. —Jazz forward Gordon Hayward
SALT LAKE CITY — The painful word of the night for the Utah Jazz on Thursday: missed.
Missed free throws.
Missed Derrick Favors.
Missed chance to win it at the end of regulation.
Despite owning a double-digit lead in the second half and being ahead by five with under four minutes remaining in regulation, the Jazz’s misses ended up costing them dearly in a painful 103-96 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
"It was tough," said Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, who led Utah with 21 points. "Felt like we played well enough to win tonight. Didn't get the plays we needed to down the stretch to secure the win, but they are a good team."
Jazz coach Quin Snyder opted to focus on the positive instead of the glaring misses.
“Just a really well-played game by our guys,” Snyder said. “And Golden State, you see why they’re the world champs.”
Steph Curry scored 31 points, including six straight in overtime, to lift the Warriors to 68-7 overall, moving the defending NBA champs even closer to breaking the 1996 Chicago Bulls’ record for most wins in a season.
Golden State needs just four victories in their final seven games to tie the 72-win Bulls. Five wins will put the Warriors, winners of six straight, in the record book by themselves.
"They are amazing," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of his team. "Nothing really went our way for most of the night and they kept fighting, you know. We always compete. That's the great thing about this team. That's why we have this record. Our guys compete every night."
The Jazz, meanwhile, took a hit in the playoff standings while falling to 37-38. Utah is now tied with Houston and Dallas, who have the same record, with seven games to go. The final two postseason spots in the West will likely boil down to two of those three teams.
That in mind, Utah faces a must-win game Friday at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Now, about all of those misses.
Missed free throws?
The Jazz had a dismal showing at the free-throw line, going 13 for 29 (44.8 percent) and blowing a chance to put this game away without having to worry about a crunch-time meltdown.
Utah was awful in the fourth quarter, missing 10 of 14 free throws. Rudy Gobert missed two with two and a half minutes left after being intentionally fouled, and Shelvin Mack split a pair with 24 seconds remaining to deny the Jazz a chance to get up by two possessions.
“I know we were trying to make them. It wasn’t effort,” Snyder said, putting a positive spin on a very negative situation. “We didn’t shoot well from the line. We can lament that fact or we can say we got beat by the world champs.”
Missed Derrick Favors?
The Jazz certainly did wish they had Favors for the final quarter and overtime but he left the game for good midway through the third quarter with right knee soreness after being fouled hard by former Ute Andrew Bogut.
Favors had compiled 15 points and seven rebounds at that point, but his absence was especially noticeable on the defensive end against the Warriors’ tricky-to-defend small-ball rotations.
“It was hard,” Snyder admitted of playing the final 23 minutes without their versatile starting power forward. “I think we tried to make the most of it. Derrick can anchor you defensively if he’s in the game and they switch off of him. Derrick’s able to defend more on the perimeter.”
Missed chance to win it at the end of regulation?
After Mack made one of two freebies, sharpshooter Klay Thompson got two chances to tie the game from 3-point range. He made good on the second when Shaun Livingston pulled in an offensive rebound and fed it back to him.
The Jazz still had plenty of time — 15 seconds — to get a good look. Utah’s final play fizzled, however, as Hayward bounced around the perimeter for a bit before dishing it to Mack. But the point guard, who had 12 points, nine assists and six rebounds, couldn’t get his shot from the far corner over the outstretched hands of Draymond Green.
Hayward grabbed the loose ball after the block and heaved up an off-balanced shot, but the buzzer-beater was off.
“Our guys competed their asses off. We played so hard and played well,” Snyder said. “I don’t want the focus to be on execution on one specific play.”
The Jazz coach did, however, point out that his team should’ve gotten a defensive rebound on the Warriors’ game-tying possession.
That fourth-quarter unraveling led to a rough overtime session, which completely fell apart when Curry went on a six-point scoring spree followed by a Green slam.
“I think we deflated when it came to overtime,” Snyder said. “In other games, when it as gone to overtime we have had juice, but they are a good defensive team. It was a difficult matchup for Rudy offensively and defensively.”
It was the second time the Jazz lost a tight game to the Warriors at Vivint Arena this season. Rodney Hood missed a late game-tying attempt against Golden State in a 106-103 defeat on Nov. 30.
“It wasn’t an easy game obviously,” Curry said. “We really had to battle all the way to the end. Klay hit a huge shot and we got a big stop at the end of regulation. We used that momentum into overtime. The defense really carried us in overtime. It was a playoff kind of atmosphere. It was good.”
It’s a good possibility the Jazz will finish as the No. 8 team and will face the top-seeded Warriors in the first round.
Utah certainly won’t be able to afford this many misses if that happens.
“Hopefully, we might see these guys again,” Hood said. “So we just have to learn from it.”