The race for the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoff picture rages on! With a win on Friday against the Portland Trailblazers, the Utah Jazz have snuck past the Los Angeles Lakers for that coveted 8th spot. With only nine games left in the regular season, fans of both the Lakers and the Jazz are sitting on the edge of their seats with their fingers crossed, hoping their respective teams find a way into the playoffs.
This may be my bias towards the Lakers speaking, but I firmly believe that not only will the Lakers attain the 8th spot, but that they will also put up a better series against the 1st placed San Antonio Spurs. I mean, even history will back me up on this point. Last season, the Spurs and the Jazz faced off in the first round, and it lead to a dismal and embarrassing sweep of the Jazz. So why would this season be any different? The Spurs have become a much stronger team since last season, while the Jazz have remained relatively the same.
Now, let us consider the potential matchup between Spurs and the Lakers. These two teams have essentially dominated the Western Conference for over a decade. Since 1999, the two teams have won a combined total of 9 championships! Historical precedence is not the only factor determining the potential of an exciting playoff series, both teams matchup in more ways than one would expect. For starters, the big men on both sides of the court are evenly matched. The Lakers possess Dwight Howard, and Pau Gasol, two players that provide a fair amount of offense for their team in the post. Howard and Gasol will have to face Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan, two players who can rather easily put up their fair share of points. Then there is the issue of offensive pace. Neither of these two really like to run an extremely fast pace game, and both rely heavily on kicking the ball out to shooters. The distinction between the two teams on this point is that the Spurs have much better shooters, a more efficient bench, one of the best point guards in the game, better chemistry, and a far superior defense. Perhaps it won’t be as exciting as I’m suggesting, but what’s wrong with a bit of team faith and optimism?