Less than three weeks ago, coach Gregg Popovich didn’t hesitate to rest San Antonio’s Big Three against the Jazz. Now, Utah must surpass a strong, deep and fully loaded Spurs team if the Jazz want to advance past the first round of the NBA Western Conference playoffs.
Denver’s 106-101 win against Oklahoma City on Wednesday locked Utah into its postseason seed.
The No. 8 Jazz (35-30) will face the No. 1 Spurs (48-16) in a best-of-seven series. San Antonio entered Wednesday having won eight consecutive games and held the second-best record in the NBA.
"It’s going to be a challenge. But we’re looking forward to that," Utah small forward Gordon Hayward said. "We’ve shown this season if we play our game we can hang around with anybody and compete with the best teams in the league. We have to just focus on us and do what we do."
The playoff schedule hasn’t been released, but games start Saturday.
Utah’s first two matchups will be in San Antonio, where the Spurs are 28-5. The mark ties Miami for the second-best home record in the NBA.
Tickets for Games 3 and 4 in Salt Lake City are on sale now. Purchases can be made at utahjazz.com, the EnergySolutions Arena box office and Smith’s Tix outlets.
The Jazz are just 1-3 against San Antonio this season, with three losses by an average of 9.6 points.
Utah downed the Spurs 91-84 on April 9 in SLC, during a game that saw Popovich hold out stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in an attempt to counter a lockout-compressed schedule.
After the victory, Jazz forward Paul Millsap said Popovich’s move felt like a "slap in the face."
"That was a little motivation … that got us through," Millsap said.
Utah and San Antonio last met in the playoffs during the 2007 Western Conference Finals, which the Spurs won 4-1.
San Antonio lost to Memphis 4-2 in the first round last season, marking one of the biggest upsets in NBA playoff history.
The Spurs have won four NBA championships under Popovich.
Utah has yet to claim a title.
Top Jazz players likely to sit vs. Blazers
Even though the Jazz have played only five games in the last 12 nights of the regular season, coach Tyrone Corbin will likely limit the minutes of his prime-time players Thursday against Portland.
Utah qualified for the Western Conference playoffs with its 100-88 win over Phoenix on Tuesday.
Although Corbin said beating the Blazers remains a priority, the victory over the Suns puts less pressure on the Jazz to do so. As a result, players like Al Jefferson,Millsap, Hayward and Devin Harris might get a little more rest than usual.
"We’ll see how it goes," Corbin said. "We’ll probably get some guys more minutes and rest some other guys."Next Page >
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