for this game

Jazz needs wins to climb in West

Apr 11, 2009 - 6:28 AM By Santosh Venkataraman Stats Senior Writer

Golden State (28-51) at Utah (47-32), 9:00 p.m. EDT

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- If the Utah Jazz want to climb out of eighth place in the Western Conference standings, they know they have to win their final two home games -- both against lowly opponents.

The Jazz look for a seventh straight home win against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night when they try to boost their chances of avoiding what would be a daunting first-round playoff matchup.

Utah (47-32) has lost five out of its last six to fall into eighth in the West, which would result in a meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers in the opening round. The Jazz were eliminated in six games by Los Angeles last season in the conference semifinals.

"Whoever we play in the first round, if it's the Lakers, go play them and lay it out there," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "You never know what can happen."

The next two games offer a perfect opportunity to get on track for Utah, which has won 15 of its last 16 at home. After facing Golden State (28-51), the Jazz host the Los Angeles Clippers before they close the season on the road against the Lakers on Tuesday.

Utah suffered a 105-99 loss at San Antonio on Friday. Deron Williams had 25 points and 10 assists for the Jazz, who couldn't take advantage of a Spurs team playing without Manu Ginobili -- out for the season with a right ankle injury.

"We put ourselves in this position. Nobody else did," Williams said. "We lost tough ballgames. We had the injuries. We're still in the playoffs. We still have a chance."

Utah has been very poor defensively during its last six games, allowing opponents to shoot 53.5 percent overall and 43.5 percent from the 3-point arc.

The Jazz have also been hurt by the recent erratic play of second-leading scorer Mehmet Okur, who is averaging 17.0 points for the season. Okur is shooting 39.5 percent and averaging 12.7 points over his last seven games, although he scored 22 in Friday's loss.

Okur may be able to bounce back for Utah against the worst defensive team in the league judging by how he has fared against Golden State earlier this season. He is averaging 21.3 points on 58.8 percent shooting in three games, including two wins for the Jazz.

The short-handed Warriors are yielding an NBA-worst 112.5 points per game. They lost their second straight, 113-109 to Houston on Friday.

"I have no complaints about the game," Warriors coach Don Nelson said. "We fought hard and stayed in the game ... but it wasn't to be."

Injuries continue to pile up for Golden State as the season nears the end.

Point guard Jamal Crawford was scratched from Golden State's lineup Friday after his lower back tightened up during warmups. That left Nelson with only seven healthy players -- Marco Belinelli suited up but has a sore right ankle and did not play.

Jazz guard C.J. Miles, meanwhile, was at the team's shootaround Friday, but sat out his third straight game with a dislocated finger.

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