The Utah Jazz have been slipping considerably lately before two much-needed wins, including a thrilling overtime win over the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. The Jazz are now sitting at 48-32 this season, which is good for fifth place in the Western Conference. They are two games behind the Dallas Mavericks and one game ahead of the Denver Nuggets.
Utah struggled to maintain their lead, leading to frustration on the field. The Jazz have been a playoff team for the past few seasons, but they failed to overcome the hurdle. They are led by star goaltender Donovan Mitchell, who has improved with each season of his career.
This season, Mitchell is averaging 26.0 points per game, 4.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He shoots 45.0% from the field and 35.5% from behind the arc.
They paired him with All-Star center Rudy Gobert, who is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner. Around these stars they have good actors like Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, etc. That core is strong but hasn’t been enough to make a deep playoff run.
Getting an opponent that Utah measures up against will be crucial to moving on. Here’s a look at the two most likely opponents to face the Jazz in the first round.
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2022 Utah Jazz First Round Playoff Opponents
2. Golden State Warriors
It may come as a surprise, but the Golden State Warriors would be a good match for the Jazz. Golden State doesn’t have a big center, which should allow Gobert to dominate in the paint, even if the Dubs could neutralize him with a small ball.
Gobert’s defense is what fans know him for, but he can be a productive lob threat and scorer in the paint. This season, he is averaging 15.5 points, 14.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. He also shoots a very effective 71.3% from the field.
The Jazz also have 3-point shooters who can match the Warriors’ dynamic guarding trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole.
Curry is out for the regular season with an injury, and it could take him a game or two to get back into shape. It could help the Jazz steal the streak and defeat the Warriors.
1. Dallas Mavericks
While the Mavericks have been on a roll, they haven’t proven they can make it past the first round. Luka Doncic established himself as one of the best players in the league but lost in back-to-back series in the first round.
Doncic is averaging 28.3 points per game, 9.1 rebounds and 8.8 assists. He’s nearly impossible to watch, but he doesn’t have a legit co-star by his side. Dallas surrounded him with quality players, but that wasn’t enough to get them into a second-round series.
While the Jazz didn’t make it to a Western Conference Finals with that core, they did make it to a second-round series. With more playoff experience and a better overall roster, the Jazz could beat the Mavericks.
Utah will have to have a great run in the playoffs or the franchise’s leadership could be in jeopardy. Head coach Quin Snyder could be headed elsewhere if the Jazz don’t get far in the playoffs. Rumors have swirled around star goaltender Donovan Mitchell, with Utah posting the same results every season. The Jazz usually have a strong regular season and then are eliminated in the first or second round of the playoffs.
CBS Sports said the Jazz are unlikely to fire Snyder, but they could mutually agree to part ways as the two may need a change.
— Laker Central 🎙🎧🎥📝 (@LakerCentral365) April 5, 2022
This is the year the Jazz need to turn things around, as the Western Conference will likely be even tougher next season.