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Jazz Playoff History: What happens when up 2 games to 1 ?

Image created by AllThatJazz / Amar: Stockton, Malone, Dantley, Eaton, Hornacek obscuring Pyramids at sunset.
Image created by AllThatJazz / Amar: Stockton, Malone, Dantley, Eaton, Hornacek obscuring Pyramids at sunset.

I'm proud to be a Jazz fan. Sure, growing up no where near Utah I hardly ever got to see Jazz games regularly on TV save for the playoffs. That did not make them less special. Of course, I was crushed in our finals losses, but the lack of a title does not make our franchise one poor in playoff memories. I'd like to introduce a new 'deal' here, where we look back into our significant history and gain better understanding and appreciation for past Jazz teams.

Right now, in 2010 in the year of our Lord John Stockton (seriously, how many assists does God have? Answer: 15806), the Jazz are up 2 games to 1 in the playoffs. The Jazz have been in this situation before. Knowing our past may help us to know ourselves better, and thus, be better focused on how to correct any past mistakes. It's not quite gut-check time -- but Game 4 vs. the Denver Nuggets is going to be pretty important.

This is the 20th time in Jazz franchise playoff history that Utah is up 2-1 in a series. That's a pretty good sample size, if you ask me. The first instance was back in the 1984-1985 Western Conference 1st round against the Houston Rockets. The most recent instance was back in 2007-2008 against the, as luck would have it, same Houston Rockets in the 1st round of the Western Conference playoffs. Between those two series' stand highs and lows against Golden State, Dallas, Seattle, San Antonio, Los Angeles (both lakers and clippers), Portland and Phoenix.

When the Jazz are up 2-1 they have gone on to win Game 4 only 9 out of 19 times. That's a winning percentage of only 47.4%.  Fear not, though, as the winner of Game 4 doesn't always predict who will win the series. Utah has won the series, after being up 2-1, 14 out of a total 19 times. That's a much healthier 73.7% winning percentage. I don't like the prospect of losing home court by losing Game 4. This isn't the same type of team that we've seen in Jazz playoff past.

The last five instances where the Jazz were up 2-1 were against San Antonio (1998), Seattle (2000), Dallas (2001), Golden State (2007) and Houston (2008). In those cases the Jazz have won Game 4 only 3 times (but 60% > 47%), and won the series 4 out of those 5 times. (80%) Furthermore, in the Deron Williams era, the Jazz have never lost a Game 4 when up 2-1; and never lost a series when up 2-1. (Essentially, FTW)

I can't predict what's going to happen Sunday, in SLC; but, a win is not necessary for the Jazz (statistically, according to 19 instances between 1984 and today) -- but a win will surely bring the Jazz one step closer to the second round. (Duh alert.)


  • Current Nuggets coach (by default) Adrian Dantley was the main offensive force for the Jazz when they won their first ever Playoff series
  • John Stocktonis known for his game winning shots in the playoffs, but some of his best series' have come in unfortunately losing situations. In the 1989 Playoffs John averaged 27 ppg (50 fg%, 90 ft%, 75 3pt%); 14 apg (3.7 a:to ratio); 4 spg, 3 rpg and 2 bpg
  • Jeff Hornacek was on a number of Jazz teams that went up 2-1 in the playoffs, winning 7 of 8 playoff series' when ahead after three games
  • Many suggest that Karl Malonewas unclutch, especially in the playoffs. While anecdotal evidence suggests that this is true -- if you look at his body of work larger samples sizes suggest that this is decidedly historical revisionism to say Karl was not clutch. Compared to Jordan, yeah, not clutch. Compared to other bigmen in the NBA, Karl was one of the best. If Karl wasn't clutch during the meat of the game then the Jazz never would have been in range to go to the West Finals 5 times in 7 years.
  • Mark Eaton is really as big as the Pyramids

Thanks to for existing.