The Utah Jazz are No. 1.
After 144 days of NBA basketball — 72 games, 190 Rudy Gobert blocks, 1,401 Donovan Mitchell points, 305 Mike Conley assists, 208 Jordan Clarkson 3-pointers — the Utah Jazz wrapped up the regular season Sunday with one more win and, for the first time in franchise history, the league’s best record.
“As much as the accomplishment for me, you appreciate this group of men,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “You appreciate the opportunity to coach them. You appreciate what they’ve accomplished in the regular season. I want them all to enjoy this moment because I feel like if we do that, that transitions us to the mindset we need to have to try to play well in the playoffs, to compete and execute. That’s what these guys have done all year.”
The Jazz did it when they had to Sunday night. The second-place Phoenix Suns edged out the San Antonio Spurs earlier in the day, putting the onus on the Jazz to win their regular season finale and claim the West’s top seed.
Clarkson and Co. were happy to do it. The Sixth Man of the Year candidate came off the bench to score a game-high 33 points to help the Jazz beat a shorthanded Sacramento Kings squad by a score of 121-99.
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) May 17, 2021
It was a rocky start to a big night, as the Jazz fell behind by 12 points in the opening quarter. But the Jazz closed the period on a 15-0 run after Snyder called a timeout to settle his squad. The team never trailed the rest of the game.
All-Star point guard Mike Conley scored 11 points in the second quarter. In the third, Bojan Bogdanovic scored nine of his 18 points as the Jazz advantage grew to as much as 29.
Gobert wrapped up the night with 13 points, 16 rebounds and two more blocks in his campaign for a third Defensive Player of the Year trophy.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Gobert said of earning the No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. “Coming from where we came from seven years ago, from not making the playoffs, building from scratch and building stone after stone, we were able to build a culture, build a team, build an identity. To be in this position today is pretty amazing.
“Obviously it’s not our main goal. Our main goal is to get the championship. But we still have to enjoy these moments and be proud of the year and the work that we put in this year.”
The NBA’s play-in tournament next week will decide the Jazz’s first-round matchup. The Jazz could see the Lakers, Warriors, Grizzlies or Spurs.
“Those games are gonna be fun to watch. I’m excited to watch those games,” Gobert said. “And whoever we face, it’s gonna be a long journey, and we’re gonna be ready.”
On Sunday night, though, the Jazz were simply focused on themselves.
“Enjoy the moment we’re in right now,” Conley told his teammates. “And tomorrow, we’ll think about the playoffs.”
The Utah Jazz will have to wait and watch, as the NBA’s play-in tournament unfolds next week before the team knows its first-round opponent. Playoff tickets, meanwhile, are already on sale.