Utah Jazz: 5 must-win games to secure No. 1 seed

Utah Jazz (Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Utah Jazz must avoid upsets to snare their first No. 1 seed since 1998.

Eight games remain on the Utah Jazz’s regular-season schedule. Currently, at 46-18, they and the Phoenix Suns are tied for the best record in the entire NBA. Considering the Suns have already swept the Jazz, though, Phoenix would edge out Utah for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference if the playoffs began today.

Plus, the Denver Nuggets (43-21) and Los Angeles Clippers (43-22) are still in contention for the top spot at only a few games back.

True, the Jazz now cannot finish lower than No. 4.

Not much room for Utah Jazz error

Despite being only a week or so removed from owning the easiest remaining schedule among these four squads vying for No. 1, Utah faces a stretch that is almost as difficult — on paper, anyway — as the stretches facing Phoenix and Denver. And among this trio, the Utah Jazz’s record across the last 10 games (6-4) is the worst.

Naturally, it doesn’t help that Utah is still without two injured All-Star guards in Donovan Mitchell (right ankle sprain) and Mike Conley (hamstring tightness).

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So with all of that in mind, it seems the Jazzmen cannot afford to lose any of the five games that they should be considerable favorites to win. Otherwise, they can probably kiss that No. 1 seed goodbye.

Those five games include the next two, both coming at home against the San Antonio Spurs (31-32).

The Spurs sit No. 10 in the West and are thereby still in the mix to reach this year’s NBA Play-In Tournament. In other words, San Antonio shall surely play hungry in Salt Lake City at 8 p.m. MT Monday and then again at 7 p.m. MT Wednesday.

After the consecutive matchups versus the Spurs, the Jazz will host the Nuggets on Friday and then the Houston Rockets on Saturday to complete their current five-game homestand. Sure, it’d help for Utah to beat Denver, but the absolute “must-win” of these two particular outings is the meeting with cellar-dwelling Houston (16-49).

Then between the final four games — at the Golden State Warriors, home versus the Portland Trail Blazers, at the Oklahoma City Thunder, at the Sacramento Kings — Utah must defeat both Oklahoma City (21-44) and Sacramento (27-37).

In summary, one may safely assume the Jazz cannot afford to lose either of the home games against the Spurs, the home game against the Rockets, or the closing road games against the Thunder and Kings.

Again, though, all those victories alone would not guarantee the top seed. Besides, if the Suns win out from here, then there would be no path for the Jazzmen to finish No. 1 regardless.

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But without at least these five wins, it just doesn’t appear as if the Utah Jazz would have any legit chance to wrap up homecourt advantage throughout their quest to reach the NBA Finals (where the franchise hasn’t been since the last time it was the No. 1 seed).