As the Utah Jazz enter the 2012 NBA playoffs, now is a good time to take a look back at the franchise's postseason history. It's filled with thrilling wins, heartbreaking losses, unexpected success and disappointing failures. Which of these will the upcoming playoffs bring? We'll see. Here, then, are the Jazz's 10 best, most memorable postseason matchups. Agree? Disagree? Have a series we forgot? Let us know.
As the first playoff series the Jazz franchise ever won, this matchup definitely merits inclusion. With players like Adrian Dantley, Darrell Griffith and Rickey Green leading the way, the Jazz won their first division title and ousted the Nuggets in five games. The Jazz wouldn't miss the playoffs again until 2004.
Magic, Kareem and the eventual champion Lakers got a surprisingly tough battle from the young Jazz, who made their mark on the national scene for the first time in this series loss. John Stockton, now coming into his own as a starting point guard in place of Rickey Green, handed out an NBA playoff record 24 assists in a Game 5 loss.
The Nuggets weren't supposed to be here; as an 8th seed, they had stunned the Seattle SuperSonics to advance and face the Jazz. Denver's upstarts took the Jazz to their limits as well, including a double-overtime win in Game 5 in Salt Lake City. Utah finally managed to dispatch the Nuggets in a 91-81 Game 7 win.
The '98-'99 season, like 2011-2012, was shortened by a lockout. The Jazz tied the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the league, but tiebreakers left them facing a frisky Sacramento Kings team led by Chris Webber and Vlade Divac. Two of the five games went to overtime, including the critical Game 5, where Divac missed a possible game-winning jump hook before the Jazz sealed the deal.
This might not have been the most thrilling series ever, but it was one of the most satisfying wins for Utah. The Shaq Era was just getting started in Los Angeles, and experts were already proclaiming Kobe Bryant the next MJ. But the Jazz delivered an embarrassing sweep to the young Lakers en route to a Finals rematch with the real Jordan.
The Rockets, with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, had home-court advantage in this series, but the Jazz, led by Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, would not be denied. The home team won each of the first six games, but Game 7 in Houston went to the Jazz behind Boozer's 35 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. This Jazz team would beat Golden State before losing to the eventual-champion Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.
The Sonics, led by Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton and Detlef Schrempf, had the best record in the Western Conference and seemed like a sure bet to make the Finals, especially after taking a 3-1 series lead against the Jazz. But Utah gutted out a Game 5 road win, won handily in Game 6, and pushed Seattle to the limit in a heartbreaking Game 7, where John Stockton's 22 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals weren't enough to overcome Kemp and Payton. The Sonics would go on to lose in the Finals to the Bulls.
This series propelled the Jazz to the first of their two NBA Finals appearances, and it might feature the most memorable moment in Jazz history: John Stockton's buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win Game 6 and eliminate the Rockets. But the whole series was a fierce battle -- Eddie Johnson's Game 4 3-pointer was a mirror image of Stockton's, and Charles Barkley and Karl Malone waged war in the low post. Even Greg Ostertag had one of the best games of his life, netting 16 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks against Olajuwon in Game 6.
The first of the Jazz's two Finals matchups with the Bulls may have been the closer series. Each game was tightly contested, and the Jazz actually tied the series up at 2 games apiece, with a good chance to take a 3-2 lead in Game 5. But Michael Jordan, while weakened by flu, had other ideas. His 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and one block in Game 5 were too much to overcome. Yet it was Jordan's teammates that sealed the title in Game 6 -- Steve Kerr's jumper and Scottie Pippen's subsequent steal slammed the door on the Jazz's hopes.
The Finals rematch saw the Jazz hold home-court advantage over the Bulls, but a Game 2 victory in Salt Lake City swung the momentum in Chicago's favor. Game 3 in the Windy City may have been the lowest point in Jazz playoff history, a mortifying 96-54 loss. But Utah would battle back to win Game 5, setting up two home games for the championship.
Game 6 could have a whole list of moments to itself: Scottie Pippen's game-opening dunk (and subsequent injury), numerous emotional scuffles, an erroneous shot-clock violation on a Howard Eisley 3-pointer (the referee, Dick Bavetta, later acknowledged he had gotten the call wrong), and a Karl Malone turnover as Jordan picked his pocket. That set the stage for the most iconic moment in MJ's career: a crossover dribble (and, if you ask Jazz fans, a push-off on Bryon Russell) into a 20-foot jumper to give the Bulls their sixth title...and crush the hearts of Jazz fans for the last time.