Utah Jazz: A franchise first is at stake entering Sunday

Utah Jazz (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Utah Jazz (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

A No. 1 seed is not the only regular-season feat in reach of the Utah Jazz.

The 2020-21 Utah Jazz squad has still yet to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference for the NBA Playoffs, which will begin next Saturday.

Rather, these Jazzmen (51-20) still might need to win their final regular-season game, tipping off at 7 p.m. MT Sunday on the road against the Sacramento Kings (31-40). Otherwise, they’ll need to have seen the Phoenix Suns (50-21) lose their final regular-season game, which will begin seven hours earlier on the road against the San Antonio Spurs (33-38).

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That’s because the Suns swept the Jazz this season, 3-0, giving Phoenix the tiebreaker if the two teams wind up with the same record.

Historical Utah Jazz achievement on the line

By notching a 109-93 victory at the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-50) on Friday night, the Utah Jazz ensured that they will at worst finish in a tie with the Phoenix Suns for the NBA’s supreme record this go-round (the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers are no longer a threat in this regard at 48-23 overall).

Now, this will be the third time in history that the franchise in Salt Lake City has ended a regular season with the league-leading mark.

The other two instances were in 1997-98, with the Jazz tying the eventual champion Chicago Bulls for the top overall spot at 62-20, and the following year, with Utah matching the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs at 37-13 in what was a lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.

With those ties in mind, should Utah defeat the Sacramento Kings on Sunday or watch Phoenix lose to San Antonio, this group of Jazzmen will become the first across the franchise’s 47 years in existence to finalize sole possession of the NBA’s best record in a regular season.

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Yet no matter the outcomes on Sunday, this Jazz bunch’s regular-season win percentage (now 71.8 percent) will trail that of four past Utah teams. Featuring Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone, those better campaigns were 1994-95 (73.2 percent at 60-22), 1996-97 (78.0 percent at 64-18), 1997-98 (75.6 percent at 62-20), and 1998-99 (74.0 percent at 37-13).