KSL UNRIVALED

Does It Matter Who The Utah Jazz Face In The Playoffs?

Mar 31, 2019, 10:15 PM | Updated: Apr 1, 2019, 1:33 pm
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) puts down a dunk as the Utah Jazz and the Portland Trail Blaz...
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) puts down a dunk as the Utah Jazz and the Portland Trail Blazers play an NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2018. (Scott Winterton, Deseret News)
(Scott Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Now that the Utah Jazz have clinched a playoff berth, who would be the best matchup for the Jazz to play in the first round or does it really matter?

The Western Conference is extremely tight and evenly matched, so it could be considered a fool’s errand to predict who the Jazz would play to start the playoffs. Seeds one through eight have a legitimate shot to win at least one series, if not more, however, there are certain opponents that give the Jazz fits and others where the Jazz have an advantage.

While the Jazz are fighting for home-court to earn the best possible seed, KSL Sports Jeremiah Jensen is more concerned about avoiding a particular team in the first round.

“I’ll throw one out there. I don’t think the Utah Jazz will match up well with the Houston Rockets, especially with Dante Exum injured. I think the Rockets would crush the Jazz in five games. [Clint] Capela has some ability against [Rudy] Gobert,” Jensen said on KSL’s Unrivaled.

The main issue with the Rockets is that the Jazz need to find a way to slow down MVP candidate James Harden who seemingly scores at will. Harden has averaged 33.5 points per game against the Jazz, including a pair of 40-plus performances this year.

“I think the Jazz would have trouble staying in front of [James] Harden. Then Chris Paul is an X-factor. It went five games last year, and while I think the Rockets are not as good defensively, but Harden is Harden and it is just a tough matchup for the Jazz.”

What About Home Court Advantage?

This might matter less for the Jazz who defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers in each of the past two years by not having the home court edge.

“It depends. Home court matters less than the matchup in my mind,” Jensen said. “The Jazz are a team that is a great study in this as they have won a playoff series the past two years without having home court advantage

“The reason that the Jazz have been able to do this is because defense travels. They have gone to these places and are not phased by tough environments and they are able to bring that defensive intensity,” Jensen added. “In the playoffs, things become a lot tighter and it becomes more of a half-court game and with the Jazz defense and Rudy Gobert they become a lot tougher to score against.”

Who Is The Best First-Round Opponent For The Jazz?

There is one clear opponent that everyone can agree upon that would make for the easiest first-round matchup and that is the Portland Trail Blazers. The loss of big man Jusuf Nurkic has changed the Western Conference playoff race, and every team wants to face the Trail Blazers in the playoffs.

“It is not because they don’t get along or have a weakness. The Portland Trail Blazers lost Jusuf Nurkic to a double-compound fracture of his leg, and that is the guy that causes the Jazz a lot of problems,” Jensen said. “Damian Lillard is incredible is an All-Star and C.J. McCullin is pretty close and those two guards would be tough for the Jazz to handle.”

The one advantage the Jazz would have over the Trail Blazers is defense, and that is especially so with the playoffs being a slower game and Portland not having Nurkic.

“In the playoffs, it is a half-court game and if the Trail Blazers do not shoot lights out the Jazz would dominate and own the rim, because the Jazz would have the  advantage they would have inside. That is a matchup the Jazz would own. So, a four-five matchup, regardless who has home court would result in a Jazz injury.”

So, maybe it does matter who the Jazz play in the playoffs because the goal is to go as far as possible. To advance further than last year, the Jazz would want to open up its playoff run against the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers.

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast

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Does It Matter Who The Utah Jazz Face In The Playoffs?