As written earlier, the Utah Jazz are really enjoying something of a storybook season in which they have overcome the departure of Gordon Hayward, extended injuries to Rudy Gobert and others, and being left to rely on a rookie to lead them in scoring.
Given the level of expectations, the fact that they now have a chance for the third seed is really quite remarkable. But I’ve written enough about that today. Now we’re going to get into the nitty gritty of how they can attain the third seed and what that means for a Golden State Warriors that they’ve blown out twice in 2018.
What tonight’s game means for the Warriors (directly)
Again, since the name of this blog is Golden State of Mind, let’s start with what this means to us first: if the Jazz beat the Warriors tonight, the Warriors will definitely not face the Jazz or Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round because of how all the math breaks out. So... not only should you not worry if the Warriors lose their regular season finale tonight, you should be even more fervently in favor of them just resting their big guns and letting the younger players get some run.
Beyond that, things are still quite complicated.
Utah controls their own destiny in their quest for the third seed
The short story is this: if Utah wins tonight against the Warriors and beats the Portland Trail Blazers tomorrow, they will claim the third seed. That is either good or bad for the Warriors depending on how you look at it: without digging too deeply into that just yet, they would avoid the Jazz in the first round, but quite likely have to deal with a team that’s given them a hard time lately in the second round.
With a win tomorrow, the Utah Jazz will be playing for the 3rd seed outright. No tiebreakers. No nothing. Winner would be the Northwest Division champs. What a season.— SLC Dunk (@slcdunk) April 10, 2018
And even if the Jazz lose tonight, they can still get the third seed, but they’ll just need some help: if they lose tonight but beat the Blazers (who are idle tonight) tomorrow night, they could still end up in a tie atop the Northwest Division and they’d win due to a tiebreaker. So tonight is not a must-win for the Jazz...but they’d need additional help to make that happen.
Nevertheless, the reason tonight’s game is still important for the Jazz is that a loss leaves them with the possibility of falling all the way to the seventh seed.
How the Jazz can end up meeting the Warriors in the first round
As mentioned previously (multiple times now), the Warriors really have no reason to want to win tonight’s game — if the Warriors win tonight and the Jazz falter again tomorrow night against the Blazers, the Jazz could end up with the seventh seed and end up facing the Warriors in the first round.
That descent to the seventh seed is quite a bit more complicated, but Jody Genessy of the Deseret News has already summarized that.
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.
In other words, winning tonight would ensure that the Jazz finish in fifth or higher. So yeah, not a must-win by any means — depending on how you see their matchup with the Warriors, winning might not matter at all — but it’s definitely important if they want homecourt advantage. The everything breaks down they relinquish their control over earning home court advantage because they’d need help to earn the fourth seed and it’s not very likely that it happens.
With only 5 games that matter left, we no longer have to simulate the rest of the season to estimate the odds... we can just calculate them.— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) April 10, 2018
Jazz playoff odds at each spot:
3 seed odds: 30.9%
4 seed odds: 4.7%
5 seed odds: 50.3%
6 seed odds: 10.8%
7 seed odds: 3.2%
The math is still pretty simple for the Warriors
David Locke has more details on the various scenarios that can happen for the Jazz, but the bottom line for us, DubNation, is that we’d be best off if the Warriors lost tonight — we’d be guaranteed to avoid the Jazz and Thunder, which is a positive thing based on what has transpired in the regular season.
After that, a whole lot else could happen as things shake out...but the Warriors are actually in position to exert quite a bit of influence over the seeding process simply by, um, resting up for a night.