SALT LAKE CITY — Although suffering a 113-109 loss to the injury-riddled Los Angeles Lakers certainly didn’t make any Utah Jazz players happy on Sunday, there are still two games remaining during the 2018-19 regular season.
After running off seven consecutive victories, the Lakers halted Utah’s win streak, but the Jazz will return home to face the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday before wrapping things up against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
Jazz forward Derrick Favors is probable to return versus Denver after missing the last four games with back spasms while Kyle Korver (right knee soreness), Raul Neto (left ankle soreness), Ricky Rubio (left quad contusion) and Dante Exum (right knee surgery) will remain out.
Inside the Jazz locker room, guys are well aware of what’s at stake during this final stretch.
“Trying to get ready for the playoffs,” said Jazz forward Joe Ingles following Sunday’s loss. “Use these games to get our team — get our game — to where we want to be going into the playoffs.”
Playoff positioning will be determined by these final two games.
Currently, the Jazz sit in fifth place of the Western Conference standings and if the postseason were to begin today they would face the fourth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in the first-round series, but still have a possibility to jump to No. 4 by virtue of a tiebreaker with Portland if both teams finish with 51 wins.
However, Portland would have to drop its final two games against the Lakers and Sacramento, which isn’t very likely.
The odds are for the Jazz to remain in the fifth seed, but they could potentially slip to sixth if they drop both remaining games and Oklahoma City wins out against Houston and Milwaukee. So the best-case scenario is a fourth seed while sixth is the worst case. Golden State is the only Western Conference team locked into the No. 1 spot, while seeds 2-8 could change.
“Whether it’s a seeding situation — to me, it’s our play because regardless of where you’re seeded, you have to play well and play a certain way to win,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said on the disappointment of the most recent loss in Los Angeles.
The Jazz are currently 49-31, which is already one game better than last year’s team that finished 48-34 to also earn a fifth seed. Last year’s team would shock the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round before falling to Houston, 4-1, in the semifinals.
Since Jan. 1, this year’s Jazz team is 31-12 and has won 12 of its last 14 games while benefitting from an easier schedule than it was at the start.
Still, the Nuggets and Clippers won’t be easy opponents as both squads are also locked in playoff spots. Denver sits at No. 2 while the Clippers are the eighth seed with the playoffs set to begin on Saturday, April 13.1 comment on this story
Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell has stated all along that the goal is to reach The Finals in June, but doing so without home-court advantage will be a tall task.
“There’s always going to be that external expectation and we felt that at the beginning of the year but for us, I think we’re just really focused on what we can do,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, the goal is a championship every year.
“I don’t think we settle for anything less and unfortunately we haven’t had that, and I think for us to continue to be the team we can be we’ve got to focus on game by game and we want to win every game we possibly can.”