With Game 1 of Utah vs. Oklahoma City coming up this Sunday, national writers have been weighing in on what promises to be an exciting first round. Here's what they had to say:
Sporting News: "It’ll be great team defense going up against great individual offensive players. Normally, the edge would go to the defense in that situation, but it’s hard to see where the Jazz will get consistent offense outside of Mitchell." OKC in seven.
FiveThirtyEight: "CARM-Elo says the closest matchup of the first round is the aforementioned clash between the Thunder and Jazz. Oklahoma City is a slim favorite at 52 percent, by virtue of having home-court advantage. But these teams are very evenly matched: Both posted 48-34 records, and only 5 points of CARM-Elo separate their ratings."
Bleacher Report: "You need a top-tier offense to have a chance against the crescendoing Jazz and the Thunder don't boast one. The scores in this series figure to be rather low, which plays right into Utah's hands." Utah in five.
FOX Sports (Colin Cowherd): "I don't remember a first-round playoff series in any conference that is more intriguing. Oklahoma City has better players. Russell Westbrook is easily the most talented guy in this series... But I think, in fact I know, that Quin Synder is the Western Conference version of Brad Stevens. They play real defense ... I'm going to take Oklahoma City with far better players to win. I think this one goes seven."
Washington Post: "The reigning NBA MVP and the potential Rookie of the Year have shown they can do whatever is necessary to carry their teams offensively. Westbrook probably has more help, which could make the difference in this series." OKC in six.
Chicago Tribune: "The Jazz are deeper, but will be asking an awful lot of Mitchell, as a rookie, to try to be the leading scorer on a playoff team going up against the NBA's reigning most valuable player. It will be a surprise if this goes less than seven games — and home court could easily wind up being the difference in a series that really feels too close to call."
SB Nation: "This is a battle between two of the wildest fanbases the league has to offer. OKC has one more game at home than Utah does. That could be the difference."
Sports Illustrated: "The Jazz have the No. 1 net rating in the NBA since the All-Star break. If the game slows down, as it often does this time of year, that would seemingly favor Utah’s gritty nature. Something to keep an eye on? The Thunder initially found success with Corey Brewer playing in place of Andre Roberson. The lineup of Russ, PG, Melo, Brewer and Steven Adams eventually finished the season with a net rating close to 0, though. The Jazz could very well pull this off."
ESPN (Jalen Rose): "Donovan Mitchell has been terrific as a rookie, the fifth rookie to ever lead a playoff team in scoring, but their defense has been their calling card this entire season... Jazz vs. OKC is going to be a phenomenal series."
The Denver Nuggets on Twitter decided to give away a basketball signed by Jamal Murray to a fan who shares their favorite moment of the season. Nuggets fan James Simpson had this as his answer:
Jazz fans send their thanks once again to Denver.
This weekend features Utah's Red-White Game, but the main event is Game 1 of Utah vs Oklahoma City.
Minors: Bees at Albuquerque, 6:30 p.m. Baseball: Utah vs. UCLA, BYU at Portland, UVU vs. CS Bakersfield, 6 p.m., SLCC at USU-Eastern, 1 p.m. (DH) Softball: BYU at Pacific, 5 p.m., 7 p.m., Utah State vs. CSU, 4 p.m., UVU at UMKC, 5 p.m., Weber State at North Dakota, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., SUU vs. Montana, 1 p.m. (DH), Dixie State vs. Cal Baptist, 3 p.m., 5 p.m., SLCC vs. USU-Eastern, 1 p.m. (DH), Snow at Southern Idaho, 1 p.m. (DH)
NWSL: Utah Royals vs. Chicago Red Stars, 1:30 p.m. College football: Utah Red-White Game, 11 a.m. Minors: Bees at Albuquerque, 6:30 p.m. Baseball: Utah vs. UCLA, BYU at Portland, UVU vs. CS Bakersfield, 6 p.m., SLCC at USU-Eastern, noon (DH) Softball: BYU at Pacific, 1 p.m., Utah State vs. CSU, 4 p.m., UVU at UMKC, noon (DH), Weber State at North Dakota, 11 a.m., SUU vs. Montana, 1 p.m., Dixie State vs. Cal Baptist, noon, 2 p.m., SLCC vs. USU-Eastern, noon (DH), Snow at Southern Idaho, noon (DH)
NBA: Jazz at OKC 4:30 p.m. Minors: Bees at Albuquerque, 1:30 p.m. Baseball: Utah vs. UCLA, UVU vs. CS Bakersfield, noon Softball: Utah State vs. CSU, noon