Mike Conley returns and Utah Jazz grab an important win in OKC

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The Utah Jazz are now just one step away from clinching the No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage throughout the NBA playoffs.

And they’re one step closer to being full strength.

The Jazz cruised to a 109-93 road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday in the penultimate contest of their regular season. With the victory, the Jazz (51-20) need just one more result to go their way to guarantee they finish the season with the best record in the NBA and the Western Conference. The Jazz will do it if:

• They can beat the Sacramento Kings in Sunday’s regular season finale.

• Or if the second-place Phoenix Suns lose either of their two final two games, both against the Spurs.

The Suns and Spurs play Saturday night and then again on Sunday afternoon, both finishing before the Jazz tip off against the Kings. So expect the Jazz to be tuning in over the weekend.

“This time of year, particularly in the West, everybody’s watching games,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “Certainly you’re paying attention.”

The Jazz took care of business Friday night in OKC, easily beating a Thunder squad that has now lost nine consecutive games. The Jazz never trailed led by as much as 29 in the contest. Forward Bojan Bogdanovic led the way with 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting. All-Star center Rudy Gobert had 16 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks.

“Tonight was a good win for us. Now we have to go to Sacramento, play our game and do what we do and try to get another game,” Gobert said.

Most importantly for the team’s playoff hopes, however, was the return of All-Star point guard Mike Conley, who had missed nine games with a hamstring injury.

“There’s no better way of getting yourself back into a rhythm and back into game shape than playing a game. You can’t really mimic that in practice,” Conley said after the team’s morning shootaround. “So I think the best thing for me, as far as where my hamstring is at and how great it feels at this moment. I feel like it’s the perfect time for me to get some time to run up and down the court, get acclimated with the team again, get my legs under me, and use that as almost as another step in the progression of returning to playoff ball.”

Conley played 16:23 against the Thunder, scoring 12 points to go with three rebounds and three dimes.

“It was great just to be out there and compete,” Conley said after the game. “I’ve been watching on the sideline and itching to be out there.”

Now Conley’s attention turns to Sunday.

“If you told us at the beginning of training camp that we’d be in this position to fight for No. 1 going into the playoffs, you’d sign us all up for that,” he said. “We have to get ready for one more and then the real thing.”

Highlights

| All the best in one place #podiumpostgame | @PodiumHQ pic.twitter.com/gsla4XGwr4

— utahjazz (@utahjazz) May 15, 2021

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The Jazz finish their regular season on Sunday evening in Sacramento. Tipoff against the Kings is set for 7 p.m.

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