Jazz Clinch 2019 NBA Playoffs After Kings Lose to Pelicans; 3rd Straight Berth

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 29, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JANUARY 9:  Rudy Gobert #27 and Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz exchange high fives against the Orlando Magic on January 9, 2019 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz clinched their third straight playoff berth Thursday even though they did not play.

The Jazz got into the field after the Sacramento Kings lost to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Utah will be searching for its first NBA Finals appearance since 1998, when the Jazz lost their second straight championship series to the Chicago Bulls.

Utah will have a tough road ahead to make it back to the championship round.

The Golden State Warriors are the clear favorites with a near-invincible starting lineup featuring five players who have made a combined 28 All-Star Games.

The rest of the West will still be tough to traverse.

Of note, the Denver Nuggets are one of the most improved and balanced teams in the league, led by All-Star center Nikola Jokic.

Former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook and current NBA MVP candidate Paul George lead an Oklahoma City Thunder team that is also stout defensively.

James Harden and Chris Paul form one of the best backcourts in the league for the Houston Rockets, and the same goes for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum for the Portland Trail Blazers.

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But the Jazz could be a thorn in all of their sides thanks to the dynamic duo of center Rudy Gobert and guard Donovan Mitchell.

Gobert is second in the league with 13.4 win shares, per Basketball Reference, and 11th in real plus-minus (plus-4.75), per ESPN.com.

Mitchell is averaging 23.3 points on 42.8 percent shooting to lead the team. He scored 28.5 points per game against the Thunder in six first-round games last season.

Utah won that series before losing to the Rockets in five second-round games. The Jazz will look to take the next step when the playoffs begin on April 13.

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