SALT LAKE CITY — Royce O’Neale delivered a pregame message ahead of the Utah Jazz’s regular season home finale from center court of Vivint Arena.
"Thank you for your support,” he announced. “See you in the playoffs. Go Jazz!"
The Jazz then treated the home fans to a 118-108 victory against the second-ranked Denver Nuggets before the postseason begins this weekend.
Even with the lifetime banishment of two inappropriate fans in March, the Jazz players still praised their overall fan base on Fan Appreciation Night.
Donovan Mitchell matched his career-best of 46 points as Rudy Gobert contributed 20 points with 10 boards to help the Jazz cruise to their 16th 50-win season in franchise history.
Utah also sold out every home game in the regular season for the first time since the 1992-93 season and only the fifth time in team history.
“Thank you, guys, for another great season,” Mitchell announced during his walk-off interview with sideline reporter Kristen Kenney. “We have a lot left in us.
“Tonight was huge, everybody stepping up doing their part,” he added. “We played great defensively, obviously (Denver is) a great team and we are just excited to get this thing started in the playoffs.”
Although Jazz coach Quin Snyder says he’s not ready to close the book on home games yet, with the playoffs near and the Jazz currently locked into the fifth seed of the Western Conference standings, he acknowledged that there have been some significant issues that have occurred this regular season. From the topic of Utah fan interaction with Russell Westbrook, to injuries, to the slow start, to high expectations, the 2018-19 season was unique.
“Every season kind of has its own life and to the extent that this one there were elements of it that we haven’t had last year,” Snyder said. “I think this game gives you an opportunity to grow and not to get too philosophical but, if we can for me as a coach and I think for our players, if you can live your life the way you ask your players to play, every now and then I would check myself and say, ‘Am I being unselfish? Am I doing my best?’
“I mean, all the things that kind of become catchwords that we expect a team to show and I think that’s one of the reasons people identify with certain teams and certain players because they play the way that you want to try to live,” he continued. “There’s been a lot of that I think this year with this group and that’s one of the reasons that you have an appreciation for me and my coaching staff to be with this group over the course of the year.”Comment on this story
Jazz veteran Thabo Sefolosha also recently chimed in on a roundtable discussion with teammates Ekpe Udoh, Kyle Korver and Georges Niang to talk racism and the NBA after Korver’s powerful essay on white privilege. Those types of discussions coupled with everything else that has occurred in Salt Lake City has made this season unique in its own way, even for a long time professional like Sefolosha.
“There’s a life outside of basketball and that’s always probably the No. 1 to try to deal with either family, social issues or whatever, so that’s always on our mind,” Sefolosha told the Deseret News. “Basketball is what we do; it’s not who we are.
“So, it was another great season. … (I'm) grateful and thankful to be able to keep playing basketball and for all of us to be in this position now going into the playoffs.”