Utah Jazz: Best Record In The NBA
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz finished the regular season with 121-99 over the Sacramento Kings, and enter the playoffs with the best record in the NBA for the first time in franchise history.
The Jazz were led by Jordan Clarkson who scored 33 points while five other players scored in double-digits to carry the team to an easy victory in the season finale.
The Kings entered the game without De’Aaron Fox, Richaun Holmes, Harrison Barnes, or Marvin Bagley, but got 20 points off the bench from Terence Ross while failing to qualify for the playoffs for the 15th consecutive season.
Jazz Own Best Record In The NBA
With the victory, the Jazz finish the NBA season with a record of 52-20, the best in the league, winning the top seed in the West by one game over the Phoenix Suns.
It was a remarkable close to the season for the Jazz who slipped to the second seed in the West behind Phoenix on May 2 but battled back to earn home-court advantage throughout the playoffs over the final two weeks of the season.
The Jazz won the West despite not having All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell for the final 16 games of the season and were without Mike Conley for nine of the final 11.
“It’s a great accomplishment coming from seven years ago from not making the playoffs,” Rudy Gobert said. “Building from scratch, and building stone after stone, and being able to build a culture.”
This marks the first time the Jazz have finished the season with the best record in the NBA outright, after sharing the best record twice in 1998 and 1999.
The team now enters the postseason with home-court advantage throughout the playoffs which last earned them a trip to the Finals in 1998.
“It’s an advantage, there’s a reason why teams work so hard to try to get in those top four spots,” Conley said. “When you’re at home, you’re just in a better zone, you’re in a better state mentally, you have a better routine.”
The Jazz will have another advantage when they return to Utah to open a first-round series for the first time since 2001 — 13,000 fans waiting to cheer them on.
“With the fans, that’s the reason we love to be in the playoffs,” Conley said. “It’s a whole different atmosphere than what you experience in the regular season. Having an advantage like we do, especially in Salt Lake City, it’ll be a lot of fun.”
The Jazz haven’t hosted game one of a playoff series since 2007 when they faced the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the playoffs after the Warriors stunned the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the opening round. The Jazz beat Golden State 4-1 before falling to the San Antonio Spurs in the Conference Finals.
Jazz Playoff Bracket
While the Jazz set their sights on earning the top record in the West over the final weeks of the season, who they’ll face in the first round of the playoffs remains a mystery.
The Jazz won’t know their first-round opponent until Friday, 48 hours before hosting game one on Sunday.
This is how the Western Conference standings shook out on the final day of the regular season.
- Utah Jazz: 52-50
- Phoenix Suns: 51-21
- Denver Nuggets: 47-25
- Los Angeles Clippers: 47-25
- Dallas Mavericks: 42-30
- Portland Trail Blazers: 42-30
- Los Angeles Lakers: 42:30
- Golden State Warriors: 39-33
- Memphis Grizzlies: 38-34
- San Antonio Spurs: 33-39
On Wednesday, the play-in tournament begins with the Los Angeles Lakers hosting the Golden State Warriors with the winner earning the seventh seed, and a first-round matchup with the Suns.
Later that night, the Memphis Grizzlies will host the San Antonio Spurs, with the winner of that game facing the losing team between the Lakers and Warriors on Friday. The winner of Friday’s game will face the Jazz in the opening round of the playoffs.
As the Jazz were locking up the best record in the NBA, the rest of the West was frantically fighting to playoff seeding, both to climb in the standings, and avoid certain matchups.
The Los Angeles Clippers lost their final two games of the season to the lowly Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, thus avoiding the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, and perhaps the semi-finals in the LeBron James led roster earns the seventh seed on Wednesday night.
The Clippers will now face the fifth-seeded Dallas Mavericks to open the playoffs in a rematch of last year’s opening-round series.
The Denver Nuggets also avoided a first-round series against the Lakers by losing their season finale to the Trail Blazers, allowing Portland to avoid the play-in tournament, and face Denver in the first round of the playoffs.
The two teams last met in the playoffs in the conference semi-finals in 2019.
Golden State clinched the eighth seed early Sunday with a win over the Grizzlies, pushing Memphis to eight to face the Spurs.
Should the Jazz make the Conference Finals, their pathway will run through two of the Lakers, Warriors, Grizzlies, Spurs, Clippers, or Mavericks depending on the outcome of the play-in tournament.
The Jazz have a tough row to hoe but gave themselves the significant advantage of having home-court advantage throughout the postseason, and a week off to get healthy before opening the playoffs on Sunday.
Should The Jazz Expect Donovan Mitchell Back?
As the Jazz sit and wait to see who they’ll face in the first round of the playoffs, they’ll also re-examine the status of Mitchell who hasn’t appeared in a game since April 26.
Mitchell was ruled out for the remainder of the regular season midway through last week and was set to be re-evaluated before postseason play begins.
After the Jazz beat the Kings, Conley hinted that the All-Star guard’s return could be near.
“We’re going to do whatever we can to make it easy on him during the week to get him back in shape and get him back ready to go,” Conley said. “I’m sure he’ll be as confident and ready as ever.”
The Jazz survived the close to the season without Mitchell but will desperately need his offense in the postseason if they wind up facing either the Lakers or Warriors in the opening round.
Mitchell led all scorers in the postseason last year averaging 36.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.9 assists while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 51 percent from the three-point line.
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