Oakland, Calif. • By the time the Utah Jazz took the floor Sunday, through no effort of their own, they had crept back in the playoff picture. Early arrivals to Oracle Arena sat around the visitors’ locker room, watching intently on a projector as the Los Angeles Clippers ran the Lakers out of their shared gym.
“I think everybody knows what the Lakers did today,” Jazz forward Marvin Williams said. “We had a golden opportunity to come out and switch places with them.”
The Jazz took that opportunity and made a golden statement, beating the Warriors 97-90 after Mo Williams made a game-clinching 3-pointer with 13.4 seconds left. With the win, the Jazz moved a half-game ahead of the Lakers.
The victory represented the Jazz’s most encouraging road effort of the season. It was just their third road victory over a team with a winning record, and it gave them consecutive road wins for the first time this season.
Beating Golden State may have turned the tide of an entire season. The Jazz host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, and Minnesota on Friday, then close out the season with road games at Minnesota and Memphis.
“We win out,” Gordon Hayward said simply, “we’ll be fine.”
By fine, he means in the playoffs.
Golden State had a chance to clinch just its second playoff berth in 20 years, but the Jazz had more pressing matters to attend to.
Mo Williams led the Jazz with 25 points, while Derrick Favors — who replaced Al Jefferson in the final minute of the game — came up with a big block and Hayward secured a key rebound to preserve the win.
Asked if he felt any pressure about replacing Jefferson in the final minute — a defensive strategy Corbin has infrequently employed — Favors said, “I don’t really feel pressure. I want to be in the game in the last minute.”
A short period in the first quarter aside, the Jazz came out more aggressive than the Warriors, recording 10 steals and 29 assists.
“This was all about them and them wanting it and the way they came out,” Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said.
Where did that energy and effort come from?
“It’s urgency time,” Hayward said. “You know? If we would have had it earlier, we wouldn’t be in this same position.”
Hayward scored 13 points, including a 3-pointer with 4:20 remaining that put the Jazz up 91-80. Yet, not even that was enough. Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry hit back-to-back 3-pointers, Draymond Green made a layup and less than two minutes later the Warriors had cut the lead to 91-88.
However, Jefferson, who finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, calmly hit a 20-foot jumper to snap the run. The Warriors had an opportunity to tie in the final minute, but with 39 seconds left and the Jazz up 93-90, Favors blocked Green’s shot in the lane. Jarrett Jack picked up the ball in the far corner, but his 3-point shot was off the mark. Hayward earned a hard-fought rebound and was fouled.
“Coach Jeff [Hornacek] told me after that timeout to go get a rebound,” Hayward said. “So that’s what I had to do.”
On the next Jazz possession Mo Williams ran down the shot clock and made his third 3-pointer of the night with 13.4 seconds left.
“Regardless of whether the Lakers would have won or not,” Jefferson said, “we had to win. This was a must-win for us.”
Sunday’s was only the third road win by the Jazz over a team with a winning record, and 12th overall.
“We have trouble on the road,” Marvin Williams said, “but nobody thinks back to how we played on the road. The bottom line is you need to win the game tonight.”
Storylines Alone in the No. 8 spot
R The Jazz win on a day the Los Angeles Lakers lose and move a half-game ahead for eighth in the Western Conference.
• Mo Williams finishes with 25 points, including a 3-pointer with 13.4 seconds left to seal the win.
Western Conference playoff race
Top eight teams make the playoffs
W L GB
5. Memphis 52 25 5
6. Golden St. 44 33 13
7. Houston 43 34 14
8. Utah 41 37 16½
9. L.A. Lakers 40 37 17
10. Dallas 38 39 19