For the first time in three seasons, the Utah Jazz will not be playing the Houston Rockets in rounds one or two. After Denver’s loss to the Clippers and OKC’s win last night, seeds 1-7 are locked and loaded in the Western Conference.
The Jazz pulled off a masterful tank job in the bubble to fall to the 6 seed, avoiding the Houston Rockets. This came in the format of holding their best players out for “rest” in the majority of games in the bubble, while still playing some entertaining basketball and keeping things fun with the young guys. Just look at this masterpiece.
next man #StartingLineup | @ZionsBank pic.twitter.com/mXSJI5nk13— utahjazz (@utahjazz) August 7, 2020
These stealth tank games might not have been the best thing to watch for Jazz fans, but in the long term it might pay out huge dividends. Not only will the Jazz avoid the Rockets in round one, they will also avoid the Lakers in round two, who swept the Jazz during the regular season. For once, in what seems like forever (maybe ever?) the Jazz actually executed a tank job successfully.
Now, before we get ahead of ourselves here, the Nuggets are no ideal matchup for the Jazz either. The Nuggets swept the Jazz during the regular season 3-0, and have been a really good team all year long. Nikola Jokic, at least recently, has gotten the best of Rudy Gobert - and the Jazz haven’t had an answer for the Nuggets, like, at all. On paper, the matchup probably isn’t much better than that of the Houston Rockets, even without Russell Westbrook who will be out with a quad injury for a couple playoff games. But for once in what feels like an eternity, the Jazz won’t be trying to corral James Harden (unless it’s in the WCF) and that feels amazing. I think I speak for most Jazz fans when I say that playing against James Harden just is not very fun. For one, he’s an incredible basketball player. He makes shots on a consistent basis that come at just incredible degrees of difficulty. If there is any lack of perimeter defense on your team, he will exploit it to the fullest. He makes shots when the defense is really great, and it’s incredibly frustrating to watch come against your team. And for the other, it’s really frustrating to watch his antics with contact and drawing fouls, which is nothing new for any NBA fanbase. This clip from last year’s playoff series about sums up the entire James Harden experience.
Every angle of the viral James Harden/Ingles elbow to the throat video.— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) April 21, 2019
Via @MikeyVP, @ClutchFans pic.twitter.com/997OFb3GlF
It’s good for Jazz fans, and the NBA as a whole, to get some variety in their playoff games. No one really wanted to watch the Jazz and Rockets go at it again in round one. They just didn’t. Now we get a fresh set of playoff matchups in Jazz-Nuggets, as well as a really juicy one with CP3 and the Thunder going at his old team in Houston. Variety is good. Mixing things up is good. The Jazz’s likelihood of getting out of the first round might not be any higher playing the Nuggets, but at least it’s fresh. I’m sure once the games get going everyone will get mad at Jokic arm-hooking Gobert in the post and we will have a new set of drama, BUT IT’S FRESH DRAMA!! Jokic actually brings in his own set of antics, but THEY ARE FRESH ANTICS.
Jokic had all the fakes for Gobert man. pic.twitter.com/ypQi33uq6W— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) August 8, 2020
All things considered, I’m happy with the Jazz playing the Nuggets in the first round. It’s something new. Just going off of memory, there seems to have been some really great games between the Jazz and Nuggets in the last couple of years, so hopefully they keep this up in the playoffs and have a fun series.