OAKLAND -- The Warriors' defense did the job in the second half, but their inability to close the deal on offense prevented them from clinching their first playoff berth in six years.
The Warriors' 97-90 loss to the Utah Jazz on Sunday at Oracle Arena was a direct result of Golden State's struggles scoring in the clutch against good defenses. That's a trend that doesn't bode well for the postseason, presuming the Warriors eventually get there.
"They played like a team whose playoff lives depended on the game," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said of the Jazz. "We played, at times, like a team that had a cushion."
Golden State (44-33) held the Jazz to 41 points on 36.6 percent shooting in the second half, but when Utah really needed a basket, it got one. The same couldn't be said for the Warriors, who managed just 42 points in the second half against one of the worst road teams (12-27) in the NBA.
A night of scoring droughts was capped by the Warriors' scoring just two points over the last 2:34.
As a result, the Warriors missed their first chance to clinch a playoff spot, which a win over Utah would have done. With five games to play, Golden State is now four games up on the No. 9 seed, currently held by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Golden State's magic number to clinch the playoffs is two. That means they can seal a playoff berth by winning their next two games. Or they can clinch Tuesday with a win against visiting Minnesota if the Lakers lose at home to New Orleans or the No. 8 Jazz loses at home to Oklahoma City the same night.
Golden State now sits a game ahead of Houston for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.
"They played harder," backup guard Jarrett Jack said of the Jazz. "They came into our building and hit first. And we couldn't just seem to ever get a rhythm to the game for whatever reason."
The lack of offensive rhythm was evident in the production of point guard Stephen Curry. In the first half, he had 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting. In the second half, he had five points on 2-of-8 shooting. He took just three shots the first 11-plus minutes of the fourth quarter as Golden State looked disorganized and nervous on offense.
The Warriors finished with 21 assists and 17 turnovers and proved they still have a tough time scoring against stiff defense with the game on the line.
"We went away from (Curry) a little bit," Jackson said. "Give credit to their defense. They put bigger bodies on him. At the end of the day, he cooled down a little bit, and their defense stepped up."
Still, it looked as if the Warriors were going to pull off the dramatic, come-from-behind win to punctuate their successful season.
They trailed 91-80 after Gordon Hayward knocked down an open 3-pointer with 4:20 left. But the Oracle crowd came alive after Warriors guard Klay Thompson followed with a 3-pointer and, after a stop, Curry drilled another one.
Golden State trailed 91-86 with just over three minutes left. After a stop, rookie forward Draymond Green put back a David Lee miss to cut the deficit to three.
Jazz center Al Jefferson answered with a jumper, but Lee pulled the Warriors back within three on a driving layup. Utah's advantage was 93-90 with just over a minute left.
But Golden State failed to score the rest of the way. A 3-pointer by Mo Williams, who had a game-high 25, with 14.9 seconds left was the dagger that ended the Warriors' chances.
"I've been waiting eight years for a night like (Sunday)," Lee said, "to have a chance to clinch and make the playoffs. It's going to happen another night. We're going to keep our heads up. But it was disappointing to lose this one."
Minnesota (29-47) at Warriors (44-33), 7:30 p.m. CSNBA