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Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets will battle in opening round of NBA playoffs

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Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) tries to back Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) during the Utah Jazz versus Denver Nuggets NBA game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 9, 2019.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The sixth-seed Utah Jazz will face the third-seed Denver Nuggets in the first round of the NBA playoffs, which are set to begin on Aug. 17 and 18.

A series of wins and losses, of which the Jazz were not involved on Wednesday, finalized quite a bit of the playoff standings, including assuring that the Jazz would face the Nuggets and not the Houston Rockets in the opening series of the postseason.

It all started with a Houston loss early in the day to the Indiana Pacers, which guaranteed the Rockets could not climb higher than the fourth seed in the West. Then, the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Miami Heat, sealing in the Jazz’s position at sixth.

The final contest of the day, between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Denver Nuggets, carried a lot of weight for seeding at the top of the West. A Clippers win would solidify the top three seeds, with the Lakers in first, Clippers in second and Nuggets in third. A Denver win would keep the door open for the Clippers and Nuggets to swap places.

The Clippers won, locking in the Nuggets as the Western Conference third seed and the Jazz’s first-round opponent.

It turns out that Saturday’s double-overtime Jazz loss to the Nuggets, which felt a lot like a playoff game, was prophetically a preview of what’s to come when the two teams face off in a best-of-seven series. The Denver Nuggets are 3-0 against the Jazz this season.

The Rockets and Thunder will face one another in the first round as the fourth and fifth seeds, though which team holds which position in the standings has yet to be decided, as each team still has one game to play.

The Thunder were losing through most of the night against the Heat on Wednesday, but with the Eastern Conference locked up and another game to play for the Thunder, both teams gave their stars the second half off.

If the Thunder had lost, Jazz fans would have needed to rely on the Jazz losing on Thursday to the Spurs in order to lock up the sixth seed and avoid facing the Rockets, so as Miami’s lead grew, tension and uncertainty among the Jazz fanbase on Twitter did, too.

Despite a hefty Miami lead even in the fourth quarter, the Thunder’s young players and low-minute guys stormed back for a victory.

The Clippers will face the seventh-seed Dallas Mavericks, and the Lakers will have to wait for the results of the play-in tournament between the eighth and ninth seeds before they know who their first round opponents is. The Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs are all still battling for spots in the playoff tournament.

The Jazz will play their final seeding game on Thursday against the Spurs at 4:30 p.m. MDT. The Spurs are fighting for a playoff spot, but the Jazz’s playoff position will not change with a win or loss.