LOS ANGELES — Even on the final day of the 2018-19 regular season, a level of suspense still loomed over the Utah Jazz’s road finale against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
Although both teams clinched playoff spots just days ahead of the postseason, neither of their opponents were determined before the actual tipoff.
Postseason seeding became so complex that even the league released a spreadsheet of potential playoff scenarios due to the plethora of possible outcomes.
“Trying to figure it all out is hard,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder admitted beforehand. “We’ve had 10 pages of spreadsheets and at least we’re down to one page, then you realize most of it you can’t control anyway so you just do what you can do to try and get ready.”
“The best part about tonight is not who we’re playing but who’s playing us, is the way we always see it,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers added. “The best part about tonight is we know what time we’re playing and the date. They don’t tell you until after things are decided, so that’ll be important for us.”
In the end, Utah couldn’t overcome a 17-point, first-half hole during a 143-137 overtime loss to the Clippers, but remain in the fifth seed. The No. 4 Houston Rockets will be their first-round opponent while the No. 8 Clippers will face the defending champion Golden State Warriors in Round 1.
The series starts Sunday at 7:30 p.m. on TNT.
NBA Western Conference Quarterfinals
No. 4 Houston Rockets vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz
- Game 1: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. at Houston, ATTSN/TNT
- Game 2: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at Houston, ATTSN/TNT
- Game 3: Saturday, April 20, 8:30 p.m. at Salt Lake City, ATTSN/ESPN
- Game 4: Monday, April 22, 8:30 p.m. at Salt Lake City, ATTSN/TNT
- Game 5: Wednesday, April 24, TBD, at Houston, TBD, if necessary
- Game 6: Friday, April 26, TBD at Salt Lake City, TBD, if necessary
- Game 7: Sunday, April 28, TBD at Houston, TBD, if necessary
The Jazz concluded the regular season 50-32, which marked their 16th 50-win season in franchise history and the second time in the past three years.
Utah fell to the Clippers at Staples Center without playing Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Kyle Korver, Donovan Mitchell, Raul Neto, Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum — who remains out indefinitely after undergoing right knee surgery but was in Staples Center on a crutch to support his teammates.
Grayson Allen, Jae Crowder, Ekpe Udoh, Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale rounded out the Utah starting lineup as Allen put up a career-best 40 points with seven rebounds. Allen became just the second Jazz rookie to post a 40-point game, joining Mitchell who did it twice last season.
Georges Niang added 24 points with six rebounds and three assists off the bench while Crowder also contributed 17 first-half points in 16 minutes before resting the entire second half.
Montrezl Harrell led the Clippers with 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists off the bench while going 10-for-13 from the field.2 comments on this story
But even deeper than the final regular season game, the Jazz will be matched up against a red-hot Rockets team in the playoffs that finished first in the Southwest Division, largely due to reigning MVP James Harden averaging a career-best 36.1 points per game. Houston also eliminated the Jazz from the 2018 playoffs 4-1 during the Western Conference Semifinals.
“It’s kind of a fitting conclusion to a season where that’s been the case in the West,” Snyder said. “I remember hearing someone say, ‘they’re two games out of last and however many games out of the playoffs’ and that sounded extreme then, but it’s just a lot of good teams. It’s fitting that so many matchups and seedings are going down to the last day.
“To me, it’s just a reflection on how good a lot of teams are that are in our conference.”