Playoff, Draft Position At Stake As Jazz Open Series With Thunder

Mar 3, 2023, 10:13 AM

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz open a two-game series with the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight that will have a major impact on the final Western Conference standings.

The Jazz own the ninth seed in the West and sit 2.5 games ahead of the Thunder who sit in the 13th seed.

If the Thunder hope to climb back into the playoff picture in they’ll likely have to sweep the weekend series with the Jazz.

Are The Jazz Shifting Gears?

The Jazz sit just 1.5 games back of the sixth-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the West, and despite a difficult upcoming schedule, could make a push for the playoffs over the final 19 games of the season.

However, the team appeared to take a shift towards late-season player development, and away from winning at all costs in Tuesday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Rather than playing more proven NBA veterans like Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones, the Jazz coaching staff turned to rookies Simone Fontecchio and two-way wing Johnny Juzang in the loss.

The Jazz could have climbed higher in the playoff race with a victory, but instead allowed the Spurs to snap their season-worst 16-game losing streak.

In Oklahoma City, the Jazz will again be without Collin Sexton who is missing his fourth-straight game with a hamstring injury, and Jordan Clarkson who is missing his second consecutive game with a sprained thumb.

Are The Thunder Tanking?

Like the Jazz, the Thunder must decide which direction they plan to take to finish the season, either chasing the playoffs or improving their draft stock.

The Thunder are just 2.5 games back of the 10th and final spot in the play-in tournament and own the fourth easiest schedule to close the year.

Oklahoma City could increase it’s playoff odds considerably with wins over the Jazz this weekend, but would also risk harming their draft position.

The Thunder currently own the seventh-worst record in the NBA and could set themselves up to add another valuable top-10 draft pick to an already talented roster before making a true playoff push next season.

Oklahoma City will be without star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and wing Kenrich Williams to open their series with the Jazz.

Utah Jazz Vs. OKC Thunder Broadcast

The Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder will tip off at 6 pm MT. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. It can also be streamed on DirecTV Stream and FuboTV.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Playoff, Draft Position At Stake As Jazz Open Series With Thunder