by Nico Fiscella
Now 57 games into the season, Utah still sits at the top of the conference as the postseason is right around the corner. While the playoff seeding for the four lowest seeds could change drastically within the final weeks of the season, it is more common than not that these teams will find themselves in the postseason. With 15 games separating Utah from their thirtieth playoff appearance, here are some possible playoff matchups the Jazz could face.
It does not help the Jazz that they are in the heavily competitive Western Conference. Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks are not an ideal first-round matchup to encounter. To put it into perspective, if the Mavericks were in the Eastern Conference, they would be the four seed. Since they are in the West, Dallas is currently the seven seed sitting two games behind the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Mavericks are currently 30-25 and are 7-3 in their last ten games. The team is led by All-Star teammates Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. The foreign duo is averaging nearly fifty points combined, Even of they both can stay healthy, it will not be an easy first-round for Utah.
This season, the Jazz and Mavericks have squared off three times, with Utah winning the series 2-1. Back in January, the teams played back-to-back games in Utah. The Jazz came out on top in both games. Donovan Mitchell missed both of those games, but the spread Utah Jazz offense did not skip a beat without their superstar.
In their first game against each other, Rudy Gobert had one of his best games of the season. He scored 29 points and grabbed 20 rebounds along the way. The Jazz won 116-104, and they carried that energy into their next matchup.
While Gobert was the hero two nights before, it was Bojan Bogdanovic and his 32 points that helped Utah blow out the Mavericks 120-101. Outside of Bogdanovic, the Jazz had four others score in double-digits. In two quick games, Utah had the Mavericks looking foolish.
If the Jazz meet Dallas in the first round of the playoffs, I believe Utah will come out on top after a six-game battle. Dallas is known for their offense, and the Jazz has been able to contain their studs in the past. We saw the strength of Mitchell during last year’s playoffs. With another year under his belt, the leader of the Jazz will prove to the league that Utah is not a phony one seed.
Prediction: Utah in Six
Golden State Warriors
While the Warriors are currently one game under five hundred, they currently hold the nine seed in the west. With a healthy Stephen Curry headed into the playoffs, you cannot count out the Golden State Warriors.
After going to seven consecutive postseasons (five consecutive finals appearances) the Warriors are now two years removed from their last postseason game.
The Warriors and Jazz have played twice this season, with a split between both teams. Curry, who is averaging 30 points per game, could not carry Golden State in their first matchup vs Utah. However, with help from Andrew Wiggins, the duo was able to push the Warriors past the top-seeded Jazz.
Depending on the state of the Warriors, the Jazz could ruin a postseason push for Golden State. The Jazz and Warriors play on May 10, 2021 for their final matchup of the season. A Utah victory could sink Golden State out of playoff contention.
While it is hard to bet against a future Hall of Famer in Curry, the Jazz should take the series with ease. Outside of Curry, the Warriors are made up of slightly above-average role players who may not be able to step up when the Warriors need them most. Utah prides themselves on their strength in numbers. If this Jazz team can carry their regular-season momentum into the playoffs, a first-round matchup with Golden State should not be an issue.
Prediction: Utah in Five
The young Memphis Grizzlies currently have the eight seed. However, it would be surprising if this team made a run in the playoffs. While the Grizzlies have a strong core for the future, it would be nearly impossible for Memphis to beat Utah in a playoff series.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year Ja Morant took the NBA by storm. The 21-year-old point guard has been doing his best to push Memphis to the playoffs. In their three matchups this season, the Jazz won all three.
Outside of Ja Morant, the Grizzlies have slashing shooting guard Dillon Brooks and double-double machine Jonas Valancunas. The Grizzlies statistics show that they are your average eight seed. They are a middle-of-the-pack team on offense (16th in Offensive Rating). However, their defense has been the primary strength (8th Defensive Rating).
The Jazz should have no problems getting past Memphis, and there is a good chance there will be brooms in the first round. The Jazz outplay Memphis in most parts of the game, and this would be the ideal matchup for Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz.
Prediction: Utah in Four
As we head into the final weeks of the season, these three teams could end up in completely different places. However, if Utah found themselves playing against one of these three teams, they should be able to move on to the second round with an eye for the championship.
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