If you ask any Utah Jazz fan which team they hate the most the vast majority of them will loudly and proudly denounce the Los Angeles Lakers. I can't blame them. In fact, I am one of them. There is no team I detest more than LA. That said, it's not like they've historically been a problem for the Jazz. Only during that "Deron Williams + three injured guys by the time the playoffs rolled around" era when the team lost to the Lakers three straight years in a row did they develop more of their unstoppable mystique. Before that the Jazz were 2-1 against LA in the playoffs. After, well, they are 2-4 in the series with a 14 - 17 win loss record in the games. If that's the baseline for which team our team has been most burned by . . . then I have news for you. The Jazz have played in 47 different playoff series, and against 12 different teams. Eleven of them were teams the Jazz faced off against during the regular season in the Western Conference. Twice the Jazz played the Chicago Bulls and it's still too soon to get into it. But back to the Lakers . . . we hate them. But evidence suggests that perhaps we should hate the Portland Trail Blazers just a little bit more.
If you add up all the games, and all the series results, you get this handy chart:
|1||Los Angeles Clippers||2||0||100.0%||6||2||75.0%|
|4||San Antonio Spurs||3||2||60.0%||12||12||50.0%|
|7||Golden State Warriors||1||2||33.3%||6||7||46.2%|
|8||Los Angeles Lakers||2||4||33.3%||14||17||45.2%|
|9||Portland Trail Blazers||2||4||33.3%||12||19||38.7%|
The team's we've had little trouble against, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, and Houston Rockets don't strike fear into me -- even if I hate all three of those teams. (The Clippers for their recent antics, the Nuggets for mainly geographic rivalry, and the Rockets because they've earned our enmity.) After that you get the San Antonio Spurs and the Seattle Supersonics. I think we can claim these two teams as legit rivals. The games are tough, and even if we're coming out on top half the time (or more), it's still in the balance.
Beyond that we get the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Overall our Jazz teams have been less than successful against them. The Suns of the 80s and 90s used to be a great match-up. The Warriors have been pathetic for so long, but somehow won a title recently. I've hated them anyways for the first round exits they put on us in 1987 and 1989. And then the Lakers need no introduction . . .
. . . but still after them we have the Portland Trail Blazers. The Jazz have the same series record against Portland as they do LA, but the Jazz don't even win 40% of the games. For whatever reason it's a bad match-up. And we're talking about the playoffs where the Jazz swept Shaquille O'Neal out -- and he's a dominant player. Portland isn't so unipolar, and usually have strong playoff teams with multiple parts that hurt us.
And they have hurt us quite a bit.
Furthermore, the TIME these teams play one another counts. I don't know if those Deron Jazz teams were real contenders, and proved to be ineffectual against the Lakers' length. That was a bad match-up, but the Jazz beat the Lakers down too. In the case of meeting at the Western Conference level, the Jazz are undefeated by the Lakers. And at the second round level it's been tightly contested (9-13) with the Jazz being a Game 7 victory away from tying it up 2-2.
That has not been the case against Portland. The only times the Jazz have defeated the Blazers in the playoffs have been twice in the first round. Utah has lost to Portland three times in the second round, and once more in the Western Conference Finals. It is lop-sided in their favor. I will argue to my death that they've been a bigger thorn in our side than the Lakers, in the playoffs. Particularly because they've sent home a number of good Jazz teams that could have challenged for the title - 1991, 1992, 1999, 2000 -- these were all at the point when the Jazz were really good, or still had a championship window open. And in each of those four times (all in the 2nd round or higher) they closed the door on that season.
Utah has had "more" trouble, but at a much smaller sample size, with a bunch of other clubs. But I don't think Sacramento counts, as they beat us at the end of our legacy. And the Mavs don't count either, because those happened back before our team powered by Stockton and Malone. By the looks of it, in terms of playoff battles the Blazers are among our worst enemies.
And I really do feel that way.