Can the Utah Jazz formally request the San Antonio Spurs as their first-round playoff opponent?
No? It doesn’t work like that?
Well, in that case, the Jazz will simply have to hope that the final standings and play-in tournament transpire in such a way as to make that matchup occur of its own natural volition.
On Wednesday night, the Jazz didn’t just earn a 126-94 victory … they didn’t just secure a season sweep … they absolutely, unequivocally decimated, dominated, annihilated and eviscerated the Spurs.
They took the court without Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley, against a team that saw them just two days prior and — thanks to the presence of a certain Hall of Fame coach — theoretically should have discovered some feasible, workable counterpunches, and then they reached down the Spurs’ throats and snatched out whatever little competitive spirit they had remaining.
The Jazz scored 38 points in the first quarter.
They scored 15 of the first 16 points in the second — a period in which they limited the Spurs to just 16 points on 5-for-20 shooting.
By the end of the third, Utah was shooting just a tick under 62% from the field for the game and leading by 37 points.
No one on the team wound up playing longer than 26 minutes.
The extent of the devastation cannot be overstated.
How exactly did this happen?
Well, it turns out that the Jazz are perfectly functional without Mitchell and Conley when next-up scorers Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic post arguably their most efficient nights of the season in the same game.
Clarkson shook off his weeks-long trend of empty-calorie gunning and racked up 30 points on 12-for-26 shooting, while adding six rebounds and four assists off the bench. Bogdanovic, meanwhile, contributed 24 for the game on 10 of 13 from the field, including 3 of 4 from deep.
“Both those guys are capable of doing that,” coach Quin Snyder said. “… Sometimes there’s nights like that, where Bojan and Jordan just shoot the lights out.”
The Croatian got the offense rolling early, hunting bully-ball post-ups, pushing the pace in transition, and diving down pathways to the rim, making 6 of 7 first-quarter shots en route to 14 points.
He noted that a stretch earlier in the season when he was struggling to finish at the rim diminished his confidence, leading to a downturn in 3-point efficiency as well.
However, he kept working at it behind the scenes, resolved to step up with the team’s All-Star backcourt duo both out, and said he’s feeling confident all over the court once more.
“I’m just trying to be aggressive — I know that the team needs me to score more,” Bogdanovic said. “… I’m trying to find myself easy buckets. I’m trying to do whatever it takes.”
Clarkson added a dozen himself in the first, then repeated the feat in the third, including a bucket near the period’s end where a contortionist, no-chance, throw-it-up-there-just-to-beat-the-clock jackknifed one-hander not only somehow went in, but earned him a trip to the line as well.
When told postgame that Bogdanovic said confidence was key for all players at this level, and asked how he kept his confidence up through his own recent shooting woes, the Sixth Man of the Year frontrunner indicated that wasn’t really an issue for him.
“I’m a hooper, I’m gonna shoot my shots — [sometimes] they’re going to go in, sometimes they’re going to miss. That’s part of the game,” Clarkson said. “… I’m always confident, I’m always going to take those shots and, you know, keep it rolling.”
The rest of the Jazz are looking to keep it rolling, too.
They’re now 48-18 on the season, and a full game ahead of second-place Phoenix thanks to the Suns’ loss against Atlanta on Wednesday night.
Even if Mitchell remains sidelined by his sprained ankle, even if Conley is impeded by his balky hamstring, the Jazz are once again in a position to control their playoff destiny.
Even though there are no more games against the Spurs remaining on the schedule.