Jazz clinch a playoff berth, but where they’ll finish and who they’ll play is still up in the air

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward Jae Crowder (99) and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) react as they go into a time out with a 4 point lead late in the game, in NBA action between the Utah Jazz and the Washington Wizards, in Salt Lake City, Friday, March 29, 2019.

The odds have been good for a couple of months now that the Jazz would make the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean that some didn’t stay awake at night imagining the worst.

So when they clinched their playoff berth on Thursday night, thanks to a Sacramento loss, there was a sense of relief, however minor with still seven games to go in the season, that the playoffs would take place in Utah for the third straight year. Making the playoffs, Jazz coach Quin Snyder said, was a side goal to his larger vision of the Jazz’s future.

“The way to accomplish it is to be a good team,” Snyder said. “Our focus has been, even through this time prior to that clinching mathematically occurring, to get better. That’s how we’ve tried to approach this.”

Still up in the air, though, is what seed the Jazz will end up with, whether or not they’ll have home-court advantage, and who their opponent will be. Modeling by NBA researcher Jacob Goldstein found that the Jazz had a 49% chance to make the playoffs as the five seed before the game against Washington, their most likely outcome. But home-court advantage is still very possible — Goldstein puts it at a 33.6% chance.

And matchup possibilities are even more up in the air. Perhaps the Jazz’s most likely opponent right now is Portland, but Houston, Oklahoma City, and even Denver, San Antonio and Los Angeles (Clippers) are within the realm of possibility. Portland may be the easiest potential opponent, due to the unfortunate injury starting center Jusuf Nurkic suffered this week. Nurkic broke his leg, and will be out for the rest of the season. Starting guard C.J. McCollum has also been out thanks to a knee sprain.

That’s not a game Snyder wants to play, though.

“Every time you try to figure something out, who you’re going to play, where you’re going to finish, who you match up with well, who you don’t, well, that’s for you guys to think about,” Snyder said. “I’ll think about it when the time comes.”

For Jazz fans interested in tickets, they go on sale next Tuesday at 10 a.m. MDT, online at utahjazz.com as well as at the Vivint Smart Home Arena box office. Season ticket holders and mini-plan purchasers throughout the season get presale access before Tuesday. The organization will be trying to create a similar atmosphere to the one featured at last year’s playoffs, which won rave reviews from national commentators.