SALT LAKE CITY — It’s a little early in the season to be talking about playoffs — playoffs? — for the Utah Jazz. But just making the eight-team Western Conference playoffs is probably the biggest goal for the Utah Jazz right now, seeing how they don’t have the team, particularly because of injuries, to compete for a championship.
Currently the Jazz sit No. 9 in the Western Conference at 15-18, one spot out of the playoffs, but only one game behind the New Orleans Pelicans (15-16) for the final playoff position. One game ahead of the Pelicans, at 16-15, are three teams, Portland, Denver and Oklahoma City. The Jazz host the Thunder Saturday night (6 p.m.) at Vivint Arena.
Saturday’s game has playoff implications not just because a win pulls the Jazz within one game of the Thunder while a loss leaves them three games behind.
The Thunder own a 2-1 season series advantage over Utah with two home victories this month while the Jazz beat OKC back in October. A Jazz win would even the series at 2-2, giving neither team an advantage in the first tiebreaker for playoff position. The second tiebreaker is a team's record against division foes and the Jazz have a slight edge 4-4 to OKC’s 4-5 at this early time in the season.
The Jazz still face a daunting upcoming schedule with road games at Denver and Golden State next week followed by a home game against Cleveland on Saturday night. Then the following week, Utah plays a home game against New Orleans before embarking on another tough road trip starting in Denver Jan. 5 and continuing to Miami, Washington and Charlotte.
Meanwhile, the Thunder play four straight home games against some tough opponents including Houston, Toronto and Milwaukee before playing five of their first games on the road in the New Year.
The Jazz will be hoping to not let the Thunder, not to mention the Nuggets, Blazers and Pelicans, get too far ahead of them in the standings.
WOLTERS WAIVED: The Jazz waived two-way contract player Nate Wolters Friday, a day after they waived another two-way contract player, Eric Griffin.
Wolters, the former South Dakota State star, appeared in five games for Utah this year and scored two points. He also started 13 games for the Salt Lake City Stars, where he averaged 15.4 points, 6.8 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game.
Joining the Jazz on a two-way contract is Erik McCree, a 6-8 forward from Louisiana Tech, who has been assigned to the Stars.
JAZZ NOTES: Donovan Mitchell has been listed as “probable” for Saturday’s game against the Thunder . . . Coach Quin Snyder received his first technical foul of the season late in the first half of Wednesday’s loss in Oklahoma City. He had just two last season, the last one coming on April 7 against Minnesota . . . Rudy Gobert is not among the league leaders in blocked shots because he hasn’t played in enough games due to injuries that have caused him to miss 15 games . . . Epke Udoh ranks 12th with 1.43 blocks per game but ranks third in blocks per 48 minutes at 4.28 with 43 blocks in 16 minutes per game . . . After leading the league for part of the season, Utah ranks fourth in free-throw percentage at 80.4 percent.