Jazz Face Thunder With Little Need For Victory
SALT LAKE CITY – After a season filled with more tumultuousness than expected, the Utah Jazz can finally take a sigh of relief when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight.
On Tuesday the Jazz clinched a spot in the top-six of the Western Conference playoffs, guaranteeing themselves a seven-game opening-round series, and avoiding the play-in tournament.
The team’s focus can now shift to health, harmony, and their preferred first-round opponent over the final five days of the regular season.
Jazz Don’t Need Win Over Thunder
The Jazz enter the evening no longer needing wins to lock up a spot in the top-six in the West and in a potentially advantageous spot to finish the regular season.
With three games left to play in the regular season, the Jazz and the Denver Nuggets have an equal win total of 47 games.
Denver needs to win one of their two final games to guarantee themselves a place in the top six of the West. The Jazz own the tiebreaker between the two teams this season and would own the higher seed in the playoffs if the two teams finish with an equal record.
Understanding that they’re nearly guaranteed to face either the Golden State Warriors or the Dallas Mavericks in the opening round, the Jazz have a good opportunity to align their preferred first-round matchup before the playoffs begin.
Should the Jazz lose out, they’re nearly guaranteed to finish in the sixth seed, matching up against whichever team finishes in the third seed. Should the Jazz prefer to finish in the fifth seed, they’ll need to beat at least one of the Thunder, the Phoenix Suns, or the Portland Trail Blazers before the end of the season.
Either way, the Jazz control their own destiny with three games left in the regular season, and that is a welcome development amid an otherwise difficult season.
Thunder Not Tanking Well
While the Jazz face no urgency to win games, the Thunder should be motivated to lose.
Oklahoma City owns the fourth-worst record in the league which puts them just outside the top-tier of teams most likely to win the top overall pick in the NBA Draft.
The Thunder could pull back into the top tier by losing the remainder of their games, and getting jumped by the Detroit Pistons who would overtake them in the standings with two wins.
Oklahoma City has not helped its lottery odds over their recent stretch of games having won four of their last seven contests, including three of their last five, and two straight before facing the Jazz.
The Jazz and Thunder will tip-off at 7 pm MT and can be heard on The Zone Sports Network. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet and FuboTV.
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