The Utah Jazz had to win the last game of the regular season to clinch first place in the Western Conference.
They only needed one win, against a Sacramento Kings team that had nothing to play, and the Jazz would end up as the most winning team of the 2020-21 season.
The Kings would play without almost their entire regular rotation, the Jazz had nothing to worry about, so it might as well have been a scheduled victory.
But the Jazz weren’t going to take any risks. They weren’t going to mess around. Selflessly and with the ease of the best team in the league, the Jazz blew up the Kings, 121-99, en route to locking up the No.1 seed, securing them a field advantage throughout. of the playoffs.
When Jazz head coach Quin Snyder was asked about pre-game playoff preparation, he didn’t want to be a part of it.
“With all due respect, we are focusing on tonight,” he said.
The Jazz were fortunate enough to learn their fate earlier today, but a Phoenix Suns victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday afternoon meant the Jazz had to beat the Kings or they would slip into second place in the Where is. .
But, less than four hours later, with the regular season behind him, Snyder was beaming with gratitude.
“You appreciate this group of men and appreciate the opportunity to train them,” Snyder said. “And appreciate what they accomplished in the regular season. I want everyone, all of us, to enjoy this moment because I feel like if we do that – enjoy the regular season – then I think it turns us into the mindset that we need to trying to play well in the playoffs. ”
For the first time in franchise history, the Jazz ended the regular season as the sole owners of the best NBA record (52-20). Twice before this season, the Jazz finished No.1 in the West, in 1996-97 and 1997-98. The Jazz had the second-best league record in 1996-97 behind the Chicago Bulls and tied the Bulls’ 62-20 record in 1997-98.
Having the best record in the league is something the Jazz don’t want to overlook. They want to prepare for the playoffs and focus their energy on the bigger goals, but they want to be sure they soak up what they’ve been able to do this year.
“Even today I was telling the guys that it doesn’t happen every once in a while that you’re the No.1 seed, the No.1 team in the NBA in the regular season,” said Mike Conley. “So take advantage of the moment we are in right now.”
The Jazz will begin their playoff preparations as much as they can in the week ahead before they know who their opponent will be and that preparation will include getting the final piece of the puzzle, Donovan Mitchell, who has missed the last 16 games. of the season, as close to full power as possible.
The Jazz will face the eighth seed of the West in the first round of the playoffs, but their opponent will not be determined until the conclusion of the Play-In tournament.
The No.7 Los Angeles Lakers face the No.8 Golden State Warriors on Wednesday and the winner of that game will become the 7th seed and face the No.2 Suns in the first round of the playoffs.
The loser of the Lakers-Warriors game on Friday will face the winner of a second game Wednesday between the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies and the winner of that final game will be the eighth seed and the Jazz’s first-round opponent.
“These games are going to be fun to watch, I am delighted to watch them,” said Rudy Gobert. “Whoever we face, we know it’s going to be a long journey, and we’re going to be ready.”
Even with the season truncated – 72 games in total rather than the traditional 82 – the Jazz’s 52 wins are the biggest in a single season since the 2009-10 Jazz went 53-29.