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NBA power rankings: Here’s where national publications slot the Jazz as they head down the stretch

Here’s where national publications slot the Jazz in power rankings this week

SHARE NBA power rankings: Here’s where national publications slot the Jazz as they head down the stretch

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) gets a hug from teammate Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale (23) as he comes out of the game as the Utah Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs play an NBA basketball game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. Utah won 126-94.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Utah started out its last four games by losing to the Phoenix Suns before beating three under-.500 teams to regain first place in the Western Conference.

The Jazz head down the stretch now, facing Denver on Friday at 7 p.m.

Here’s where national publications slot the Jazz in power rankings this week:

ESPN — No. 2 (Last week No. 1)

What they said about the Jazz:

The race for the NBA’s best record and the West’s top seed could go down to the wire, but it isn’t the Jazz’s priority at this point, particularly with the likelihood of the Lakers and/or Clippers being involved in the 4-5 matchup. Utah hopes to be fully healthy going into the playoffs, so they will be as patient as necessary with All-Star guards Donovan Mitchell (sprained ankle) and Mike Conley (hamstring tightness). Ideally, the Jazz will have at least a handful of games down the stretch with their full roster to reestablish rhythm entering the postseason. — Tim MacMahon

NBA.com — No. 7 (Last week No. 5)

What they said about the Jazz:

For the first time in three months, the Jazz are not in first place in the Western Conference (at the time of writing). And they can blame health, the same thing that helped them rack up the league’s best record through the first four months of the season. With Donovan Mitchell having missed the last eight games and Mike Conley having missed four of the eight, the Jazz are 4-4, even though they have the league’s second-ranked defense over that stretch. Aside from the night (Wednesday in Sacramento) when they had the most efficient game (154 points on 101 possessions) for any team in the last 23 years and set the NBA record for effective field goal percentage (77.9%), offense has been a struggle.

No team has defended the Jazz better than the Suns, who moved into first place and completed a season sweep on Friday by holding Utah under 105 points per 100 possessions for the third time. The Jazz had 62 drives on Friday (their season average is 52.7), but couldn’t turn those into as many shots at the rim (they had just 13 shots in the restricted area) or open 3-pointers as they typically generate. In their three games against Phoenix, the Jazz have averaged just 14.7 wide-open 3-point attempts, compared to 21.5 in their other 61 games.

Their game against the Nuggets on Friday is the Jazz’s last within the (current) top six in the West. They’re 7-7 within the group thus far, with their only post-break win (in five games) within the group having come against the Lakers without LeBron James and Anthony Davis. — John Schuhmann

Sports Illustrated — No. 3 (Last week No. 4)

What they said about the Jazz:

It’s been a joy to watch Mike Conley play his best basketball in 2020–21. Conley was hampered throughout much of his first season in Utah last year, and his significant decrease in production made many wonder whether his contract would become a major albatross. That narrative has completely faded this year. Conley is in the midst of his best shooting campaign since 2016–17, and he’s found a way to become an effective secondary playmaker alongside Donovan Mitchell. If Utah breaks through and reaches the Finals, Conley will be a major reason why. — Michael Shapiro

CBS Sports — No. 7 (Last week No. 4)

What they said about the Jazz:

Utah lost to the pesky Wolves and the Suns this week, while destroying the Kings by 49 points and beating the Raptors on Saturday. The Jazz clearly miss Donovan Mitchell, who is still rehabbing a significant ankle injury, and Mike Conley missed all but one game this week. The No. 1 seed is in serious danger, as the Suns pulled into a tie for first with their win on Sunday. — Colin Ward-Henninger

NBC Sports — No. 2 (Last week No. 4)

What they said about the Jazz:

With Donovan Mitchell out and Mike Conley being in and out of the lineup, the Jazz offense has stumbled in recent weeks (13th in the NBA over their last seven games, with an offensive rating 4.7 below their season average), and that could cost them the top seed. The Jazz also have been unlucky in the past couple of weeks, but they have been unlucky all season — Utah has 47 wins but Cleaning the Glass’ numbers say they should have 51 or 52 wins, in which case we wouldn’t be having this top seed discussion. Whether they are the No. 1 or 2 seed, this Jazz team is a legitimate contender. — Kurt Helin