It would appear that the Jazz really do not want to play the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
Our original game preview for today focused on this Saturday matchup with the Utah Jazz being the start of a tougher stretch of the schedule for the Lakers, and while some of that is still true due to injuries and other games later in the week, it looks like their matinee matchup with the No. 1 seed may be a lot more winnable than previously though, because in addition to Donovan Mitchell missing the game with an ankle injury, the Jazz are sitting Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley and Derrick Favors for the second game of their current back-to-back.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news:
Missed game is because of injury recovery for those three Jazz players.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 17, 2021
First of all, I love that the second tweet their is literally the Jazz saying “please don’t fine us, Adam Silver.” But in all seriousness, with the No. 1 (or at worst, No. 2) seed all but locked up, it would appear that the Jazz really, really don’t want to assist the Lakers in falling further down the standings. Los Angeles is currently the fifth seed, but are only 1.5 games ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers for sixth after the latter’s win last night, and just 3.5 games ahead of the Dallas Mavericks for seventh, with two games coming up against the Mavs later this week.
Given that the Lakers project to have both of their stars back by the first round of the postseason, it appears that this is the first instance of chicanery we’re seeing from a contender to avoid having their reward for a season of success being playing against the defending champions with a rested LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the first round. It surely won’t be the last time something like this happens.
So while this did not look like a winnable game for the Lakers before, now, with the Jazz down their three best players and a fourth rotation player, the zombified Lakers may still have a chance to give the Jazz what they want: A loss, and a better chance to avoid LeBron and AD in the first round. This still isn’t a surefire win, however, because the Lakers are also really banged up:
Notably, however, Marc Gasol is still being listed as questionable after injuring his finger last night.
Here is their full injury report: pic.twitter.com/pFNrTTJ6mO
— TV’s Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) April 17, 2021
We’ll see if — despite their own injuries — L.A. can help the Jazz duck them when the two teams tip off at 1:30 p.m. PT this afternoon.