The battle for the eighth seed in the Western Conference is going strong, and it may as well be decided by the last game of the season. The Utah Jazz have only three games left in the regular season, while the Los Angeles Lakers have four. Each have a good shot at making the playoffs, and the race will come down to the wire.
If the Jazz do end up securing the eighth spot in their conference, they would most likely face either the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder. There is a slim chance that the Denver Nuggets could slip to the top seed, but it's unlikely with only five games left.
With that being said, which team would the Jazz fare better against in the postseason?
Jazz vs. Spurs
The Spurs convincingly swept the Jazz last year in the first round of the playoffs, and both teams still have relatively the same players as they did last season. Mo Williams was probably the biggest addition to the Jazz, but he's not a player who could completely turn a series around.
The Spurs won the regular season series 2-1, but all three games were decided by 10 points or fewer, including one game that went into overtime.
Down low, the Jazz have a plethora of talented big bodies to throw at the Spurs. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors provide great matchups against Tim Duncan in the post. Although it's better to have one great player than a few good ones, the number of different players defending Duncan will surely get him fatigued, making it difficult to play both ends of the floor effectively.
The point guard matchup would also be interesting to watch. It's a battle between the streaky Williams and one of the best point guards in the league—Tony Parker.
Defensively, it's likely that the Spurs would put either Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green on Williams, because their length and quickness would give him trouble. Parker has the clear advantage over Williams in terms of talent and skill, but he would still be difficult to guard if he gets on a hot streak.
The matchup at the wing positions are relatively even. Gordon Hayward is a step above Leonard and Green in terms of talent, but all of them are great defenders. Hayward is more versatile and comes with the complete package of skills, but it's not a lopsided matchup in any shape or form.
Jazz vs. Thunder
The Jazz would have a difficult time matching up against the Thunder, and that's an understatement.
Their biggest advantage is the front-court depth, but the Thunder match them with their prominent interior defenders in Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison.
Russell Westbrook presents matchup nightmares for nearly every player at the point guard position, so the Jazz would probably try to throw a variety of different defenders at him. Westbrook is the biggest advantage the Thunder have over the Jazz, and nobody in the entire league could stop him when he gets going.
Oh, they also have this player named Kevin Durant, who neutralizes any advantage that the Jazz have on the wings.
The Jazz are 1-3 against the Thunder this season, and three of the four games were convincing losses. It's hard to say that the Jazz would have an easier time against the Spurs, considering they got swept last year, but they would probably have a much more difficult time playing the Thunder.
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