The Utah Jazz will take on the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs today. And this time . . . this time the Jazz will actually be the underdogs. That’s hilarious for any big picture people who know the relative histories of LAC and UTA. History also tells us that the Jazz and Clippers have faced each other before.
1992 NBA Playoffs
The 1991-1992 Utah Jazz won 55 wins and yet another Midwest division title. They were the second seed out West and looking to make a mark on the league with John Stockton and Karl Malone at their peaks (pre-Barcelona Olympics). The Los Angeles Clippers won 45 games and were 7th. They met in the first round.
The Jazz would win the series 3-2, which went the distance in the 5 game first round era.
Utah won the first two games, at home, 115-97 and 103-92. These were blowouts. But those Jazz teams were so great at home, but so weak on the road. And that came to a head during the LA Riots. In the warzone the Jazz got blitz, losing Game 3 98-88 and Game 4 115-107.
The Jazz finally put the Clippers away 98-89 in Game 5.
Karl Malone averaged 29.8 ppg and 12.0 ppg. He also had 2.2 bpg in this series. Jeff Malone dropped 21.4 ppg as well. John Stockton was insane: 16.0 ppg, 16.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.0 spg. Danny Manning, Ron Harper, Doc Rivers, and Ken Normon got their points, but they didn’t play any defense in the games that mattered.
Utah would go on to beat the Seattle Supersonics 4-1 in the second round, and face the Portland Trail Blazers in the West finals - falling 2-4 under the bright lights. Still, it was a great season, the best season in franchise history at that point.
1997 NBA Playoffs
The 1996-1997 Utah Jazz won 64 games, and another Midwest division title. The top seed in the West were feeling like this was their time. And according to the West, it was. John and Karl were still around. But this team was very deep and playing at an elite level. The Los Angeles Clippers finished with 36 wins and were 8th in the West. They did not put up any opposition in the Playoffs.
The Jazz swept the Clippers 3-0. It wasn’t even close.
Game 1 the Jazz won 106-86. Game 2 the Jazz won 105-99. Game 3 the Jazz won 104-92. No riots this time. No playing games in a neutral third location. No city under siege. No problems.
Karl averaged 30.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, and 1.3 spg. Jeff Horancek dropped 17.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.7 apg, and 1.3 spg. John Stockton was less needed and averaged 14.3 ppg, 11.3 apg, 4.3 rpg, and 2.0 spg. Six Clippers averaged double figures in this three-game set: Loy Vaught, Malik Sealy, Brent Barry, Darrick Martin, Rodney Rogers, and Lorenzen Wright. But they were really overmatched.
Utah wold go on to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1 in the second round, and beat the Houston Rockets 4-2 in the West Finals. The only team to stop them would be the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals, falling 2-4 as the underdog for the first time in the Playoffs. It was the best season in franchise history at that point, again.
- The Jazz play the Clippers every year the team has won the division. This is true for today.
- Every time the Jazz play the Clippers in the Playoffs the Jazz advance.
- Every time the Jazz play the Clippers in the Playoffs, it ends up being the best season in franchise history, to that point in time.
So for this trend to continue that means the Jazz go all the way to the NBA Finals and win at least 3 games. Is that going to happen? We’ll all have to find out.