Utah Jazz: Final 5 games will determine Jazz's spot in NBA draft lottery

Published: Monday, April 7 2014 9:20 p.m. MDT

New York Knicks' Pablo Prigioni (9) guards Utah Jazz's Trey Burke (3) in the second half during an NBA basketball game Monday, March 31, 2014, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Rick Bowmer, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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SALT LAKE CITY — They're questions that you’ll never hear Utah Jazz coaches or players answer — so don’t even ask them — but they're items that a lot of Jazz fans have been discussing all season.

Where will the Jazz end up in the final standings this year? And what will their eventual draft position be?

We won’t know the answer to the latter question until next month (May 20) after the lottery balls are bounced around to determine the final order for the June 26 NBA draft.

But where the Jazz end up in the final standings will be determined over the next week as they finish up the regular season with five games, starting Tuesday night against Dallas.

Following their embarrassing 130-102 loss to Golden State Sunday night, the Jazz stand 24-53 with the fifth-worst record in the NBA.

The past couple of years at this point, everyone was trying to figure out what the Jazz had to do to make the playoffs — how many games they’d have to win and what their main competitors had to do.

This year, with the playoffs a long-distant memory, everyone wants to know where the Jazz will end up in the lottery.

At No. 5 in the current lottery standings, the Jazz have an 8.8 percent chance of getting the top pick, a 29.1 percent chance of getting a top-three pick and a 55.3 percent chance of getting a top-five pick.

Remember, the way the lottery works is that all of the 14 teams have a chance for the top pick (or top three picks), with the odds ranging from 25 percent for the team with the worst record to 0.5 percent for the 14th-worst team.

It looks almost certain that the Jazz will end up with the fourth-, fifth- or sixth-worst record in the NBA. They are one game ahead of Boston (23-54) and a game behind the Lakers (25-52). If the Jazz win four or five of their remaining games and Sacramento (27-50) and Detroit (28-49) lose four or five games, the Jazz could move up further. But that scenario is quite unlikely.

Then there’s Orlando, which has crept within two games of the Jazz after going 3-3 in its last six games and is now 22-57. However, all of the Magic’s remaining games are against Eastern Conference playoff teams, including two against Brooklyn.

So local lottery watchers are looking at Boston and the Lakers to see if the Jazz will move up or down by the end of the season.

The Jazz are playing a couple of teams this week that should be motivated to better their positions in the upcoming postseason. In fact, Tuesday night’s opponent, Dallas (47-31), hasn’t yet clinched a playoff berth, so the Mavericks will be hungry for a victory to stay ahead of Phoenix (46-31) and Memphis (45-32).

On Friday the Jazz play Portland (50-28), which has clinched a spot in the playoffs but is trying to finish as high as it can and perhaps catch Houston (51-25) and get home-court advantage for the playoffs.

After that, the Jazz play at Denver Saturday, at home against the Lakers Monday and at Minnesota Wednesday to conclude the season.

Considering how the Jazz have played on the road and how motivated Dallas and Portland should be, the Jazz may just get one more win, Monday against L.A.

The Celtics, who have lost eight straight, don’t have a tough schedule, including a road game left against lowly Philadelphia. But they lost at home to the 76ers last week, so don’t expect a win there. The Celts could easily go 0-5.

The Lakers have three home games before going to Utah next week, but they are against playoff teams (Houston and Golden State) and a Memphis team that is fighting to get in the playoffs. Then they finish at San Antonio.

So next week’s Jazz-Lakers game could very well determine which team gets a higher lottery spot.

As for Tuesday night’s game against Dallas, the Jazz will have to contain their top two scorers, Dirk Nowitzki (23.6 ppg) and Monta Ellis (16.8 ppg), something they didn’t do Sunday against Golden State stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (64 points, 23 of 38 shooting).

Coach Tyrone Corbin called them “different animals” in comparing the Warriors' duo to the Mavericks' twosome.

“It changes a lot with Dirk and Monta Ellis, the way that Dirk can shoot the ball and the way they run pick-and-rolls,’’ he said. “We have to make sure to stay close to Dirk. You can’t get spread out on the pick-and-roll. We can’t let him get going. He’s a good player and he’s going to make some shots.’’

The Jazz aren’t scheduled to practice Wednesday and then they’ll get ready for Portland on Friday night.

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