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Who will the Jazz play in the first round? What each candidate brings to the NBA playoffs

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Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry makes a move against the Utah Jazz on May 10, 2021. Will the Warriors and Jazz meet in the playoffs?

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) drives against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert during an NBA basketball game in San Francisco, Monday, May 10, 2021. Could the Warriors and Jazz meet in the first round of the NBA playoffs?

Jeff Chiu, Associated Press

For now, the Utah Jazz are playing the waiting game. Soon enough, they’ll learn who their first playoff opponent will be. 

The Jazz’s first-round matchup will be determined Friday night, as a result of the final play-in tournament game. The winner that night will become the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and play Utah in a first-round series set to start Sunday.

What does each of the four teams who could face the Jazz bring to the play-in round?

No. 7: Los Angeles Lakers

  • Record: 42-30
  • 2020-21 record vs. Utah: 1-2

Team leaders 

  • LeBron James, small forward: 25.0 points, 7.8 assists, 7.7 rebounds, 1.1 steals per game .
  • Anthony Davis, power forward: 21.8, points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals.
  • Dennis Schroder, point guard: 15.4 points, 5.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals.

Likelihood of facing the Jazz: The defending champion Lakers — who’ve dealt with significant injuries to stars James and Davis this season — have the best odds of avoiding Utah. They host the Warriors on Wednesday night, and the winner of that game will automatically earn the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference and play No. 2 seed Phoenix Suns in the first round. After going more than a month without back-to-back wins, Los Angeles ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak. The Lakers also beat Golden State in two of their three meetings this season, including a split of two games played in Los Angeles.

WC play-in schhedule

Western Conference NBA play-in tournament schedule

  • Game 1 (9 vs. 10): Memphis vs. San Antonio, 5:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN
  • Game 2 (7 vs. 8): Los Angeles Lakers vs. Golden State, 8 p.m. ESPN
    Note: winner advances as the No. 7 seed to play No. 2 Phoenix in the first round

  • Game 3: Winner of Game 1 vs. loser of Game 2, 7 p.m., ESPN
    Note: winner advances as the No. 8 seed to play No. 1 Utah in the first round

No. 8: Golden State Warriors

  • Record: 39-33
  • 2020-21 record vs. Utah: 2-1

Team leaders

  • Stephen Curry, point guard: 32.0 points, 5.8 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 42.1% 3-point shooting percentage.
  • Andrew Wiggins, small forward: 18.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists.
  • Kelly Oubre Jr., shooting guard: 15.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals.

Likelihood of facing the Jazz: Golden State seems like the most likely opponent for the Jazz in the first round after they ended the season eighth in the Western Conference standings, and the Warriors must go on the road to face the Lakers to start the play-in tournament. Golden State is on a hot streak, though, having won 8 of 9 to end the regular season. Curry, who leads the NBA in scoring this season, averaged 36.7 points in eight games during that stretch, including three games with 40-plus points. The Warriors are also the only one of the four potential Jazz first-round opponents that had a winning record against Utah.

No. 9: Memphis Grizzlies

  • Record: 38-34
  • 2020-21 record vs. Utah: 0-3

Team leaders

  • Ja Morant, point guard: 19.1 points, 7.4 assists, 4.0 rebounds. 
  • Dillon Brooks, small forward: 17.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 steals.
  • Jonas Valanciunas, center: 17.1 points, 59.2% FG shooting percentage.

Likelihood of facing the Jazz: The Grizzlies, like San Antonio, would need two wins in the play-in phase just to face Utah. Memphis, though, has the leg up on the Spurs by hosting their game Wednesday night. The Grizzlies went 2-1 vs. San Antonio this year, with their lone loss coming in Memphis back in the season opener. If Memphis advances to face the Jazz, it could be an interesting series: two of the Grizzlies’ three losses to Utah were by three and four points, respectively.  

No. 10: San Antonio Spurs

  • Record: 33-39
  • 2020-21 record vs. Utah: 0-3

Team leaders

  • DeMar DeRozan, small forward: 21.6 points, 6.9 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 49.5% FG shooting percentage.
  • Dejounte Murray, point guard: 15.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.5 steals.
  • Derrick White, point guard: 15.4 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 1.0 blocks.

Likelihood of facing the Jazz: While the Spurs technically have a shot to advance to the first round, it looks like a long shot at this point. San Antonio lost 10 of its last 12 games to wrap up the regular season; 11 of those games came against playoff teams, with a lone win over the East’s No. 3 seed, Milwaukee. If the Spurs do pick up two play-in wins to advance to a first-round matchup with Utah, they’ll have some work to do: the Jazz beat San Antonio by an average of 21.3 points in their three matchups this season.