West shaping up well for Jazz

The Utah Jazz clinched a playoff spot Thursday night, making a trip to the NBA’s post season for the third straight season. But much like last season, with just a few weeks left in the regular season, no first round match up has been determined, and it appears unlikely we’ll know who will play who until the league’s final game.

With that said, and just a handful of games remaining this season, the Jazz appear poised for a favorable first round match up.

First, it must be noted that the two teams the Jazz should want to avoid most are the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets. Both teams have made short work of the Jazz in each of the last two second rounds, and I believe are still the best team’s in the West.

The remaining playoff teams outside of the Jazz, Warriors, and Rockets that are playoff bound in the West are the Denver Nuggets, the Portland Trailblazers, the Los Angeles Clippers, the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In my opinion, the best matchups for the Jazz in the first round would look like this, with the Jazz record against the teams this season:

  1. Los Angeles Clippers (2-0 with 1 remaining)
  2. Portland Trailblazers (2-2)
  3. San Antonio Spurs (2-1)
  4. Denver Nuggets (2-1 with 1 remaining)
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder (0-4)

Clearly, the Thunder have simply been a bad matchup for the Jazz, with Russell Westbrook and Paul George appearing to take the matchup personally after a first round loss last season.

The Nuggets are tied for the top team in the Western Conference, but while they are unproven in the post season, and the Jazz have an advantage in the season series, they’ve earned their record, and will be dangerous in the post season.

The Spurs are dangerous, and have an ability to score from the mid range which is dangerous in the post season. They feature the best coach in the game in Gregg Popovich, but are an imperfect roster.

The Portland Trailblazers lost Jusif Nurkic to a broken leg last week, who had arguably been their second best player this season. While the Jazz have split the season series with the Blazers, losing Nurkic gives the Jazz an enormous advantage down low, but Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have been a headache for the Jazz in their last two matchups. It’s hard to imagine Portland’s defense holding up during a seven game series.

The Clippers are simply the least talented team remaining in the playoffs, and Quin Snyder has already out coached Doc Rivers in a playoff series. The Jazz have won both match ups with the Clippers this season, and would be heavily favored in the playoffs.

Luckily for the Jazz, with the current standings, and remaining games, the future looks bright.

If the playoffs started today, the Jazz would be in a 4-5 matchup with the Blazers, starting in Portland.

Here’s my prediction for each of the playoff teams final games, and their final standings.

1. Golden State predicted record:  58-24

Hornets – W

Nuggets – W

@ Lakers – W

Cavaliers – W

Clippers – W

@ Pelicans – W

@ Grizzlies – W

2. Denver predicted record: 56-26

Wizards – W

@ Warriors – L

Spurs – W

Blazers – W

@ Blazers – W

@ Jazz – L

Wolves – W

3. Houston predicted record: 53-29

@ Kings – W

@ Clippers – W

Knicks – W

Suns – W

@ Thunder – L

4. Portland predicted record: 52-30

@ Wolves – W

Grizzlies – W

@ Nuggets – L

Nuggets – L

@ Lakers W

Kings – W

5. Utah predicted record: 51-31

Hornets – W

@ Suns – W

Kings – W

@ Lakers – W

Nuggets – W

@ Clippers – L

6. San Antonio predicted record: 49-33 (4-3)

Kings – W

Hawks – W

@ Nuggets – L

@ Wizards – W

@ Cavaliers – W

Mavericks – W

7. Los Angeles predicted record: 49-33 (4-4)

Grizzlies – W

Rockets – L

Lakers – W

@ Warriors – L

Jazz – W

8. Oklahoma City predicted record: 49-33 (3-4)

Mavericks – W

Lakers – W

Pistons – W

@ Wolves – W

Rockets – L

@ Bucks – W

So here’s the final standings:

  1. Golden State:  58-24
  2. Denver: 56-26
  3. Houston: 53-29
  4. Portland: 52-30
  5. Utah: 51-31
  6. San Antonio: 49-33
  7. Los Angeles: 49-33
  8. Oklahoma City: 49-33

This would give the Jazz a game of wiggle room before falling into the San Antonio, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City tie, and keep the Jazz on the heels of the Blazers should they slip up. Should the Blazers drop more than one unexpected game, the Jazz could still potentially end up with home court advantage in the first round, again against the Blazers.

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