Utah Jazz: Best seed since Stockton-Malone era, guaranteed

Utah Jazz (Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports) /

Across the Utah Jazz homestretch, both seeding and history are on the line.

Since 1984, the Utah Jazz franchise has missed the NBA Playoffs only nine times, albeit all nine of those teams that came up short have come within the most recent 18-year span. But of their 29 postseason nods all time, the Jazzmen have earned one of the top two seeds in the Western Conference only six times.

Wait, make that seven.

First, though, it’s worth noting that Saturday’s 124-116 win over the Houston Rockets (16-52) completed the sweep of a five-game homestand. This further ensured that Utah’s success in Vivint Arena — 31-4 with only one such outing remaining — will put to shame all other NBA home records this season. At the moment, the next best is 27-7 by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Now, not only did the Jazz (50-18) become the first squad this go-round to reach 50 victories, but with four games left on their slate, these league-leading gems have also wrapped up at least the No. 2 seed in the West.

And no one in Salt Lake City has pulled off that feat since Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone guided Utah to a No. 2 seed as aging veterans during the 1999-00 campaign. In fact, the Jazz never finished better than No. 4 in the West from 2000-01 to 2019-20.

No sense in minimizing what this Utah Jazz team has already accomplished

Despite the 10 fewer games than normal this year, these guys can still tie the 2007-08 Jazzmen for the franchise’s most regular-season wins in any season that began this century. To do so, though, they’ll need to come out on top in all four of the contests left on their schedule:

  • at the Golden State Warriors (35-33) on Monday
  • vs. the Portland Trail Blazers (39-29) on Wednesday
  • at the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-47) on Friday
  • at the Sacramento Kings (29-38) on Sunday

Sure, it won’t be easy considering that Utah is still without the services of two All-Star guards in Donovan Mitchell (right ankle sprain) and Mike Conley (hamstring tightness).

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However, given these remaining opponents’ current combined losing record (124-147) and the healthy Jazzmen’s cohesive prowess as of late, it sure does seem safe to say that four more victories are within reach.

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Yet seeing that their lead over the tiebreaker-holding Phoenix Suns (48-19) is only one game in the loss column, the Utah Jazz might need all four dubs to secure what would be the third No. 1 seed in franchise history, joining the 1996-97 and 1997-98 treasures.