Kragthorpe: Fisher Factor projects Jazz to West finals
Three observations about the Jazz, entering the final night of the NBA regular season:
• Based on the theory that former Jazz guard Derek Fisher annually ends his old team's season, the Jazz are guaranteed to meet Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals.
Since leaving the Jazz in the summer of 2007, Fisher helped the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Jazz in three consecutive playoff series, then the Lakers knocked them out of postseason consideration last April.
Until Wednesday night, there was a good chance the Jazz would meet Fisher's Oklahoma City team in the first round of the playoffs. But Denver's victory over the Thunder assured the Jazz of the No. 8 seed, facing San Antonio.
• The game Jazz fans should care most about takes place tonight in Oakland, Calif.
Golden State can maintain the NBA's eighth-worst record by beating San Antonio. Pending the actual lottery results on May 30, that status would mean the Jazz's receiving the Warriors' first-round draft pick (via the Deron Williams trade with New Jersey).
If the Warriors lose to a Spurs team that already sent home Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, they'll tie for the seventh-worst record with the New Jersey-Toronto winner. In that case, a coin flip could determine whether the Warriors have to convey the pick to the Jazz, because it's top-seven protected.
The Jazz could get the Warriors' 2013 pick, but it is probably going to be much less valuable. Golden State could be a borderline playoff team next season with Steph Curry and Andrew Bogut healthy.
• The turnaround between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs will be very short for several teams. Four games will be staged Saturday and, officially, no one will know who's playing in those games until late tonight.
So, obviously, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin needs to approaching tonight's meeting with Portland pretty much the way San Antonio's Greg Popovich is treating his team's last two games. If any Jazz regular plays more than 20 minutes, that would be a big mistake.