Utah’s Best Playoffs Hopes Depend On Losing Final Regular Games

Apr 9, 2019, 2:12 PM | Updated: 4:10 pm
Utah Jazz guard Grayson Allen (24) is congratulated by Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale (23) after s...
Utah Jazz guard Grayson Allen (24) is congratulated by Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale (23) after scoring against the Sacramento Kings at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 5, 2019. Allen scored 19 points during the first half. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – With just two games left in the 2018-19 NBA season, the Western Conference playoff picture is almost as foggy as it was in November. The 8 teams in have already been decided, but it isn’t known who will play who, or where, or when.

It’s important to acknowledge that the Jazz have certain teams they matchup with better (Denver, San Antonio, Portland) than others (Houston, Oklahoma City).

It’s very possible that the Jazz could have the most success in the postseason if they secure the six-seed. The only way this happens is if Utah loses its final two games to Denver and the LA Clippers, and Oklahoma City wins its final two against Houston and Milwaukee. Both teams would finish with 49 wins and with OKC winning the tiebreaker, would move above the Jazz to the six spot.

If the Jazz earn the sixth seed, they would still want to play Portland. With the injuries the Trail Blazers have suffered to stars like Jusuf Nurkic, CJ McCollum and Seth Curry the matchup should favor the Jazz. In order for this to happen, the above scenario of the Jazz losing out and OKC winning out  would have to play out, and the Blazers would have to also win out. With games against the Lakers and Kings that  is very doable.

This scenario means the Rockets and Blazers would each finish with a 53-29 record, and with Portland holding tiebreaker, they would move up to the third spot.

The opening round of the playoffs would most likely look like this:

#1 Golden State vs #8 LA Clippers/San Antonio (San Antonio holds tie breaker over LAC)

#2 Denver vs #7 San Antonio/LA Clippers

#3 Portland vs #6 Utah

#4 Houston vs #5 Oklahoma City

An opening round win against the Blazers is very likely for the Jazz which would result in a second round matchup against the winner of the #2/#7 series – three teams which the Jazz should be favored against. With Golden State, Houston, and Oklahoma City on the opposite side of the bracket, the Jazz could easily advance to the Western Conference Finals while the other three beat each other up in their pursuit of a title.

What would the Jazz have to do to set up this situation? Well, they can start with losing against Denver. If they don’t lose against Denver, this situation can’t play out, regardless of the outcome of the OKC vs. Houston game on Tuesday night.

The Nuggets did this on Sunday against Portland, marching out a less-talented lineup with the hope that they can control their own playoff seeding to avoid a less-than-favorable matchup in the opening two rounds.

While the Jazz are likely to step up against any challenge they may face, sometimes the playoff race is like a game of chess and by sacrificing a pawn – Tuesday’s game against Denver –  they’ll truly setting yourself up for the win in the long term.

Utah’ game against Denver will tip off Tuesday at 7 p.m. and be broadcast on AT&T SportsNet.

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Utah’s Best Playoffs Hopes Depend On Losing Final Regular Games