LOS ANGELES — With the fifth seed on lock for the third consecutive postseason, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers is warning NBA teams not to underestimate the Utah Jazz this year.
“It’s going to be a hard one for someone,” Rivers said ahead of Wednesday’s regular season finale versus the Jazz.
How does he know? Coach Quin Snyder’s Jazz team topped Rivers’ Clippers squad in a seven-game, first-round series in 2017 with Game 7 being played at the Staples Center.
Utah also beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round as the fifth seed of last year’s playoffs after starting the season 19-28.
Despite high expectations, Utah once again got off to a slow beginning to this season, going 18-20 before switching gears around the start of 2019 to conclude the year as one of the league’s hottest teams with win streaks of five and seven straight games.
Rivers feels that Utah could be a possible nightmare during the opening round.
“Yeah, they’re tough. They’re so defensive-minded, No. 1,” Rivers said. “I think they’re always offensively underrated, they move the ball. Q does an amazing job, so they’re not going to be an easy opponent for anyone."
Clippers swingman Wilson Chandler wasn’t a member of that Clippers playoff team in 2017 that lost to the Jazz, but he also has deep respect for their style of play — especially around this time of the year.
“Their solid basketball is similar to Memphis, but they get out and run on offense,” Chandler said. “Rugged team, tough, play hard, persistent, consistent. It’s always a tough matchup and they’ve got a really talented team.
“I just think they’re really well-coached and everybody knows their role,” he continued. “Everybody plays with one another and just the style of basketball with the ruggedness, the toughness, I think that’s build for playoff basketball. A lot of calls you get in the regular season, they’re going to let those calls go and those guys are physical.”