The Utah Jazz beat the Los Angeles Clippers last night. You might not have noticed because every sports news network is going wall to wall coverage of March Madness. But it was awesome. Yahoo Sports said if this game was a preview of a possible Utah Jazz vs Los Angeles Clippers, then sign them up.
The NBA’s regular season ends on April 12, which means we’re now less than a month away from figuring out which teams will play each other in the first round of the 2017 postseason. Fans will certainly gravitate toward certain dream matchups — Kevin Durant vs. Russell Westbrook is now a distinct possibility in the West — but others will not stand out as no-doubt barnburners. Some matchups don’t seem great until they actually take place.
The looming first-round tilt between the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers could be one of those series. The No. 4 Jazz entered Monday’s game against the visiting Clips 4 1/2 games back of the Houston Rockets, while the Clippers came in three games up on the Oklahoma City Thunder for fifth place. The seeding could go either way, but it looks for now as if these two squads will face off in a best-of-seven set come mid-April.
Also, check out some of the Clippers’ greatest hits from last night:
Chris Paul assessed technical foul for shoving Rudy Gobert.— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) March 14, 2017
Remember this for when two teams play each other next month Round 1 pic.twitter.com/EEPqBtmm7G
Chris Paul might have been mad about this block.
When asked after the game what Chris Paul thought of Rudy Gobert:
Bad blood brewing between Clippers and Jazz already. CP3 on Gobert: "He talks a lot. He can play, but he just talks a lot.”— Bill Oram (@billoram) March 14, 2017
To which many had PLENTY to say about that:
“Excuse me, Mr. Pot?”— Sactown Royalty (@sactownroyalty) March 14, 2017
“There’s a Mr. Kettle on line two.”
“Dammit, Deloris, I told him never to call me here!” https://t.co/iqXIwVfzTD
Don't let the fact the Jazz won distract you from the fact the Clippers needed to go 3 on 1 versus Gobert. pic.twitter.com/1CTvURDKB3— Kris (@5kl) March 14, 2017
Gotta love this coming from Chris, who basically never shuts up on the floor. https://t.co/MLmOlc7q3X— Yaya Dubin (@JADubin5) March 14, 2017
March Madness is in full swing and for the first time in what has seemed like an eternity, Utah Jazz fans are not watching the tournament in anticipation of who the Jazz might select come the NBA Draft. Nope. This time we actually get to sit back, enjoy it, and know that the NBA playoffs are just around the corner. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get hyped about it.
While the Utah Jazz have a brutal stretch to end the season, last year’s contenders are faltering in the month of March. Check out Golden State and Cleveland’s brutal March courtesy of ESPN.com:
In case you were wondering, the Utah Jazz are 5-2 with an Offensive efficiency of 108.4 (11th) and a Defensive Efficiency of 107.3 (17th). With a net efficiency of 1.2 (13th). If you’re thinking ... wow ... I would have thought those would be higher. You would be right. That Oklahoma City game destroyed their monthly totals. They had a defensive rating of 121.3. Rudy Gobert was out that game. Hashtag Rudy Gobert Defensive Player of the Year.
CBS Sports had their weekly NBA Power Rankings release and here’s what they had to say about Utah who they had ranked 9th.
Here's Utah's situation in a nutshell: if they beat the teams they should, they'll hang onto the 4-seed and that gives them at least a coin flip in the first round. Win the first round, the season's a smashing success. But their tiebreakers and matchups with the playoff teams are bad all over. They can't let up from now until their season is done.
Makes sense. If the Jazz get out of the 1st round, call this year a success and give Dennis Lindsey an Executive of the Year award and Quin Snyder a Coach of the Year award for making it through all these injuries. If not, the Utah Jazz go into one of the most perilous offseasons in recent memory.
Speaking of a perilous offseason, Keith Smith of RealGM previewed what Utah could do with all this talent that’s expecting to get paid soon. More specifically Utah’s 2014 draft selections of Dante Exum and Rodney Hood.
Exum is another member of the class who has missed significant time with injury. He tore his ACL and missed the entire 2015-16 season. This year he’s come back and played mostly backup minutes behind George Hill. An extension for Exum is likely tied to Hill’s free agency this summer. If Hill stays in Utah, are the Jazz going to commit to Exum on a big contract?
Extension Prediction: No Extension if Hill re-signs with Utah. Four years/$64 million if Hill leaves. It all depends on Hill. Utah isn’t going to commit big to a backup point guard when they can get one elsewhere for much cheaper. If Hill leaves, the Jazz will likely keep Exum around and install him as the starter moving forward, as they have other pressing free agency concerns this summer as well.
Hood has become one of the steals of the 2014 Draft. He’s a solid scorer who can score inside and outside and make plays off the dribble. He’s had some injury issues this year, which has held back his development as a playmaker, after he showed signs of improvement in that area last season
Extension Prediction: Four years/$80 million. Unlike Exum, whose future is tied to Hill to some extent, Hood is a guy the Jazz want to retain at almost any cost. After extending Rudy Gobert, Utah will attempt to do the same with Hood, especially as insurance if Gordon Hayward leaves this summer.
Some good analysis here, though I disagree with the Dante Exum analysis. I don’t see Utah abandoning that investment because they found a veteran who got a new lease on life. If Kevin O’Connor was still around? Sure. Hill would be maxed up until he was 40 and Dante Exum would be traded to some team who’d turn him into a superstar. I see Utah holding onto Exum, especially with his improvement as of late.