Following one of the most successful regular seasons in franchise history, the Utah Jazz are also enjoying good success in the first round of the NBA playoffs. After a bump in the road in Game 1 without Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz took this series by the reigns and have had control so far. In fact, the Jazz have had the lead for 130 of the past 144 minutes (3 games) in the series. If that’s not total control, then I don’t know what is.
Full respect to this Memphis Grizzlies team though. They play hard and don’t go down easy. A 10 point lead against them has felt more like 2 with how they fight and claw for every minute. Let’s hope that Utah wraps this thing up at home in 4 games with a quassi gentleman’s sweep.
Based on the first round so far, should we be excited about Utah’s playoffs hope moving forward? Honestly, I have no idea. On one hand, they’ve had to absolutely fight the 8th seed in every game so far. A 4-1 series victory will have still required pretty substantial effort for a 1 seed.
But I want to return to a regular season stat to project Utah’s playoff hopes. It’s one that everyone is very familiar with at this point: net rating.
The Utah Jazz had a league-leading 9.0 net rating in the 2020-2021 regular season. This was nearly a full 3 points better than the 2nd place LA Clippers. The Jazz absolutely dominated the regular season, especially when fully healthy. That begs the question, how have previous teams with a 9.0+ net rating fared in the playoffs in the past?
A 9+ net rating has actually not happened as frequently as you might think. As you can see here, this has only happened 14 times in the past 24 seasons. And in the 13 previous occurrences to Utah doing it this year, half of them have went on to become the NBA champs. Hurting that stat is also that 2 teams in the same season have accomplished the feat, so it was impossible for both of them to take the Larry O’Brien trophy home.
Now, there are also a few 2nd round losses mixed in there. So obviously you can’t just have a great regular season and expect playoff success to come. You still have to earn your way there. But it does indicate that such a high level of regular season success generally means that team will keep it rolling in the playoffs.
Am I going to guarantee that the Jazz make their first finals run since Stockton and Malone? Heck no. But I do feel really good about their chances. In fact, I’m not the only one. Check out 538’s odds:
Don’t like 538’s model? Ok, that’s fine. Let’s go with a system that has more skin in the game. Here are the Vegas NBA Finals odds instead:
Yes, that’s 2 separate entities actually favoring the Utah Jazz to go to the NBA finals. Weird I know. But this team really is that good. And the West really is that wide open right now.
So as Donovan Mitchell would say “LET’S GO!!!!!”