The Utah Jazz (51-31) and the Los Angeles Clippers (51-31) have finished the 82 game schedule is very identical records. They have the same overall record, the same record against the West, and the same home and road records. The one thing that separates them is the Clippers own the tie-breaker, and thus have secured home court against the Jazz in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
The Clippers and Jazz do not have a storied rivalry, but have faced one another in the NBA Playoffs before. Both times the Jazz won (1992, 1997). The team in SoCal has big stars who make All-NBA teams and are on TV commercials all year long. Chris Paul is purported to be a generational point guard talent. Blake Griffin is THE Power in the power forward spot. DeAndre Jordan is a phenom when it comes to play in the paint. Even their non-Big three is storied - J.J. Redick was on the cover of magazines for his collegiate scoring ability. Jamal Crawford is a crafty, clutch player with big games and game winners in his belt. And even their most recent additions are legends, like future Hall of Famer forward Paul Pierce.
Coached by storied leader Doc Rivers how can this team possibly lose?
Right? I guess that’s the story the Utah Jazz are up against. Luckily, a lot of stories are fiction. What’s real, what’s in the history books, is what Rudy Gobert has been doing all season long. Utah may not have the ad revenue, casual fan interest, or media coverage that the Clippers currently enjoy. But they have a hard working, defense first team that’s finally healthy.
Gordon Hayward has worked himself to be elite. Countless injuries held Utah back this year, but the addition of three wise men (Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw, and George Hill) kept this team on track. It’s been a team effort, a coalition from all around the world really, that’s helped Utah finally claw their way back up the mountain and into the post season.
No one wants to play Utah in the NBA Playoffs. The Clippers drew the shortest straw. And it’s going to be a battle.