Warriors can clinch playoff berth with win over Utah

  • Golden State Warriors' Andrew Bogut, right, defends against San Antonio Spurs' Tiago Splitter, of Brazil, during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 104-93. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

OAKLAND — The Warriors, for a moment, allowed themselves to imagine what the atmosphere will be like at Oracle Arena Sunday.

"It's going to be crazy, as it always is," point guard Jarrett Jack said Friday after the Warriors' 111-107 victory in Phoenix. "Probably to a higher power, if they can go to one. I'm sure they're going to be ready to see us."

A win Sunday over the Utah Jazz and the Warriors will lock up a playoff spot. It's been six years since the Warriors were a win away from such a feat.

The Warriors (44-32) enter Sunday 4 1/2 games up on the No. 9 seed, currently occupied by Utah (40-37). A win over the Jazz would put Golden State 5 1/2 games up with five to play, meaning it would be impossible for them to finish ninth.

Not that the Warriors' work would be done. They're still trying to fight off Houston for the No. 6 seed. And heading into the playoffs with momentum, playing their best basketball, is still a stated priority of Mark Jackson's crew.

But Sunday, if they handle business, the Warriors will have a chance to stop and take a bow. To reward fans many deem as best in the league. To make their stamp on Warriors history as one of the few teams that didn't disappoint.

And they already know that means something to Golden State fans, who've experienced the disappointment of missing the playoffs 18 of the last 19 seasons.

"Ah, man. It's going to be fun," forward David Lee said. "It should be a playoff-type atmosphere. I think Oracle has been that way for about the last month and a half. Fans have sensed that the playoffs are a real possibility and that each game counts."

The significance of a playoff berth in these parts isn't lost on this locker room, despite the rampant talk of culture change and bigger goals. Seven Warriors, including four starters, have never experienced postseason basketball.

Center Andrew Bogut and guard Jarrett Jack each have one playoff series under their belts. Only center Andris Biedrins, swingman Richard Jefferson and forward Carl Landry know what it feels like to get past the first round — and the first two don't play very much.

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