SALT LAKE CITY — To sum up everything we know for certain about the Utah Jazz and the 2018 postseason ... they’re in.
Actually, we also know they can’t finish in the top two of the Western Conference — Houston (64-16) and Golden State (58-23) are locked in there — and the Jazz's 47-33 record and tiebreakers with two games remaining assures that they won’t end up with the dreaded No. 8 seed and first-round matchup against the Rockets, either.
Other than that?
Goodness gracious, there are a lot of scenarios.
Only two games remain, but just one-half of a game separates Portland (48-33) from Utah (47-33), while New Orleans, San Antonio and Oklahoma City (all 47-34) are just another half-game back. And don’t forget about Minnesota and Denver, who are tied for the final berth at 46-35 but could finish much higher.
There are scenarios that could result in any of those seven teams ending up in the fourth or fifth spots, and either the T-Wolves or Nuggets will be eliminated Wednesday in what amounts to a play-in game.
Currently in the fourth position, the Jazz could find themselves seeded anywhere from No. 3 to No. 7 by the time the playoffs begin this weekend.
The most likely scenario — according to websites with fancier calculators than ours, like fivethirtyeight.com and playoffstatus.com — is that the Jazz will wind up in the fifth spot against the fourth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. That scenario flipped around after the Thunder beat Miami on the road Monday night.
This all makes for quite a bit of fun sports drama, especially considering Wednesday's season-finale includes four important games with playoff implications: Jazz at Blazers, Nuggets at Timberwolves, Spurs at Pelicans and Grizzlies at Thunder.
Here’s a look at some of the scenarios that might play out for the Jazz over the next two days in as an intriguing of a season-ending stretch as the NBA has had:
THIRD SEED: The easiest route to this destination for Utah is to win out. If the Jazz defend their home court — not always a guarantee despite all the good that’s happened this year — against an injury-depleted Golden State squad on Tuesday and then win at Portland on Wednesday, Utah will be the No. 3 seed. That, of course, is pretty insane if you think back to January when this team was 19-28. The Jazz could also finish No. 3 if they go 1-1 as long as they beat the Blazers and OKC gets stunned by a tanking Memphis team. If there’s a three-way tie between OKC, Utah and Portland, the Blazers will get the nod — for the Northwest Division title and the No. 3 seed because they would have the best record against the other two teams. (Portland has beaten Utah and OKC five times combined, while the other two teams only have three total victories in games against each other.) Either New Orleans or San Antonio will end up at 48-34 after both teams won Monday, but they would be seeded lower than Portland, Utah or OKC because Houston won the Southwest title and one of the three NW Division teams will win that tiebreaker by viritue of being a division champ. This seed will probably come down to who wins Wednesday at the Moda Center.
FOURTH SEED: Utah is favored to beat Golden State at home — the Warriors are limping into the playoffs without Steph Curry — but will be the underdog at Portland. So a 1-1 finish is most likely. The Jazz have head-to-head tiebreakers against NOLA (3-1) and San Antonio (3-1), but those would only come into play for this seed if OKC loses so it's unlikely for Utah to finish here.
FIFTH SEED: The Jazz will end up No. 5 if Portland finishes third and Utah ends up tied with OKC by going 1-1 or 0-2 while the Thunder conversely win or lose Wednesday. OKC beat Utah 3-1 in the season series, so it holds that tiebreaker. The Jazz could also get leapfrogged by the winner of the Pelicans-Spurs game if Utah loses out. The Jazz will be the fifth seed if they tie with Minnesota (going 0-2 while the T-Wolves beat Denver on Wednesday). The two teams split their season series, but Minny would have a 10-6 division record compared to Utah’s 7-9 mark in that scenario. Denver would also finish ahead of the Jazz if they beat the T-Wolves and Utah loses both because the Nuggets would have a 10-6 division record. In the case of a four-way tie at 48-34 between Portland, OKC, Utah and the Spurs-Pelicans winner, the seeding would play out in that order.
SIXTH SEED: For this to happen, the Jazz would need to lose out and fall behind the winner of the New Orleans-San Antonio game and finish tied or behind OKC or have one of those scenarios play out along with finishing in a tie with Denver or Minnesota. If the Jazz lose out and end up in three-way tie, they will be the No. 6 seed in all but one scenario.
SEVENTH SEED: The Jazz would need to lose out and end up in a three-way or four-way tie with the loser of the Pelicans-Spurs game, OKC, Minnesota and/or Denver. Because they hold some tiebreakers over the Pelicans and Spurs, Utah is guaranteed no worse than the seventh seed. Utah will be the No. 7 seed if it loses twice, New Orleans loses to San Antonio and Minnesota beats Denver because the T-Wolves (sixth in this scenario) split with Utah 2-2 and swept the No. 8 Pelicans 4-0.
• Remaining games for these seven teams:
Portland: Wednesday vs. Utah
Utah: Tuesday vs. Golden State, Wednesday at Portland
New Orleans: Wednesday vs. Spurs
San Antonio: Wednesday at Pelicans
OKC: Wednesday vs. Memphis
Minnesota: Wednesday vs. Denver
Denver: Wednesday at T-Wolves
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