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This season has gone by fast, hasn’t it? Seems like just a short time ago that I was covering my first regular-season Jazz game — the home opener against the Golden State Warriors where Jonas Jerebko’s last-second tip-in spoiled an incredible performance.
Then, this past Sunday, I was already at my last regular-season road game, in which the South Bay … er, Los Angeles Lakers pulled off a stunning upset over Utah.
There’s a certain symmetry there, yeah?
Now, here we are, on the final day of the regular season. The Jazz are back in L.A. tonight, facing the Clippers. This game doesn’t actually mean much for the Jazz, who are locked in to the Western Conference’s No. 5 seed again, and so they’ll probably deploy their big-timers sparingly.
A couple other games tonight, however, are worth keeping an eye on, because they’ll help determine Utah’s playoff opponent. It’ll be either the Houston Rockets or the Portland Trail Blazers.
Many would rather see the Jazz avoid Houston at all costs, considering the Rockets, when healthy, are one of the league’s most dangerous teams. There also seems to be a perception that the Blazers are beatable, as center Jusuf Nurkic is out with a broken leg, and because high-scoring guard CJ McCollum just returned from injury himself. Plus, you know, Portland was the No. 3 seed last season and got swept in the first round by the Pelicans. Still, even if you make it past Portland, you’re then presumably matched up with Golden State in the second round.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. We still have games tonight. Here’s the Jazz-relevant info: the Denver Nuggets will be hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Blazers will be hosting the Sacramento Kings. Both games tip off at 8:30 p.m. MT. If either (or both) the Nuggets and Blazers lose, Portland becomes the West’s No. 4 seed, and the Jazz will be heading to Oregon this weekend. But, if both the Nuggets and Blazers win, then the Rockets drop to No. 4, and the Jazz will be Texas-bound.
So, as my favorite athlete ever (SARCASM ALERT!!!) Terrell Owens once so famously said, get your popcorn ready.
In case you missed it …
Yup, we’re at the last day of the regular season. There was a fair amount of stuff going on last week to get us to this point.
First off, from a non-basketball perspective, the big news was The Players’ Tribune article penned by Kyle Korver about him recognizing his white privilege and wanting to do something about it. The Salt Lake Tribune’s Christopher Kamrani wrote about Korver writing the piece, as did columnist Gordon Monson, who said it’s the most important thing Korver has ever done.
As for the on-court stuff, well, let’s see … all of Rudy Gobert’s record-breaking dunking resulted in him getting a jersey sent to the Hall of Fame … the team talked about how they’ve been able to overcome having their rotation constantly in flux due to injuries … the Jazz unveiled a jazz-themed campaign for Rudy to be named Defensive Player of the Year again … my colleague Andy Larsen took a look into why the Jazz are the league’s best rebounding team … and I took a look at which players deserve to win some hardware, and who I think actually will take home the trophies.
Other people’s stuff
• Some 35 years ago, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar broke the NBA’s all-time scoring record against the Jazz, in a game played in Las Vegas. Deseret News writer Eric Woodyard caught up with some Jazz legends to re-live the event.
• Ever wanted to know what an NBA player’s house is like? YouTube channel “Deux Nuits Avec” got to go inside Rudy’s pad and give us all a look.
• Tuesday’s game at Vivint Smart Home Arena was a sellout — marking the first time since 1992-93 that the Jazz sold out every home game in a season. KSL.com’s Ryan Miller takes a look at why that happened this season.
• Tony Jones of The Athletic talked to Ekpe Udoh about the genesis of his book club, and how it became a rather big deal that day it got name-dropped in a quote tweet by former First Lady Michelle Obama.
• Marc Spears of The Undefeated took a deeper dive into Korver’s article, noting, “The rousing response to the words of a white player not known for saying much was a necessary reminder that white words matter in the fight against racism and social injustice.”
• And finally, the Jazz got a bit of social media attention over the past few days because of a viral video of a young fan named Evie, whose bedtime was precluding her from watching the Jazz game:
Donovan Mitchell saw the video, and invited Evie and her family to the game …
… and even gifted her a pair of her shoes:
Afterward, Evie was so excited by it all, she re-enacted her interview with Jazz sideline reporter Kristen Kenney:
Regular season ends tonight, with the Jazz in Los Angeles to face the Clippers. After that, it’s the playoffs, either in Houston or Portland. It’s all so exciting!!!!!!!
And one more thing …
I know I’m biased and all, but I think our Jazz coverage is pretty great! Hopefully, you do too, and that’s why you’re here reading this. You’re gonna want to keep reading all our excellent coverage during the playoffs. If you’re not a subscriber, you can hit that paywall pretty quick. Don’t let that happen. Because it’s the playoffs, and we don’t want you to miss a thing, The Tribune is dropping the cost of an annual subscription to just $1 per week or $52 for the year. This flash sale ends Sunday night. Go to www.sltrib.com/subscribe and click on digital unlimited.