SALT LAKE CITY — This column was supposed to be a fun one for Utah Jazz fans to read, which would have been a rarity considering what point of the series their team was in.

Through most of the three quarters of Game 5 against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday in Orlando, it looked like the Jazz were going to wrap up their most-efficient and most-dominant series victories in a long, long time. And, as you’ll see, those kind of playoff wins are not common for Utah — yes, even, back in the good-old days when Hall of Famers roamed freely through the Salt Palace and Delta Center.

(3) Denver Nuggets


vs. (6) Utah Jazz


Game 1

Nuggets 135, Jazz 125 (OT)


Game 2

Jazz 124, Nuggets 105


Game 3

Jazz 124, Nuggets 87


Game 4

Jazz 129, Nuggets 127


Game 5

Nuggets 117, Jazz 107


Game 6

Nuggets 119, Jazz 107


Game 7

Nuggets 80, Jazz 78, Nuggets win series 4-3

After four phenomenal games by Donovan Mitchell and some great ones by Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley Jr. and Jordan Clarkson, the Jazz were minutes away from closing out a favored No. 3-seeded Denver team in five games.

In multiple ways, that’s easier said than done.

Utah has won plenty of playoff series over the years — 24 overall, including a few in the past four years, to be exact. But the Jazz have never made a habit of cruising into the ensuing round.

To advance the hard way in recent years they needed to:

A) Avoid the Houston Rockets.

B) Avoid the Golden State Warriors.

C) Avoid the San Antonio Spurs.

D) Get Joe Johnson to defy his age (and the Clippers defense) and Gordon Hayward to play like an All-Star to outlast a favored Los Angeles team in seven games in 2017 and then contain Russell Westbrook and Paul George to get by the favored Oklahoma City Thunder in six games in 2018.

Not exactly easy tasks on the to-do list.

In 2010, they had to rally around Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer and outwork the favored Nuggets after Mehmet Okur suffered a season-ending Achilles injury to get out of the first round with a 4-2 series win.

In 2007 and ‘08, it took them six and seven games to eliminate the Rockets — it used to happen, kids — in some competitive postseason hoops.

“This has been a fabulous series. And it’s good for the fans that they get another game or two of this.” — Stan Van Gundy

The Jazz are either trying to beat up a bigger bully or stave off a feisty underdog, or they’re like smart-but-easily-sidetracked students who procrastinate until 9 p.m. the night before a 10-page essay is due to begin writing, and they’re similar to stubborn tough guys who refuse to ask for help when carrying large boxes (“awkward size, not heavy,” of course). They’re plenty capable of pulling it off and getting things done. The results are just not as comfortable and certain as you’d occasionally prefer them to be.

If it seems like they do it the hard way, it’s because they do (when they do).

Case in point: Utah hasn’t strolled past a playoff opponent in fewer than six games since the series that everybody outside of the Beehive State only remembers as the one in which Baron Davis dunked over Andrei Kirilenko. It was an impressive slam by Davis, for sure, but it came in a one-sided 4-1 Western Conference semifinal series win by the Jazz after the No. 8 “We Believe” Golden State Warriors shocked No. 1 Dallas Mavericks in the first round.

That was 13 years ago.

The Jazz’s most recent easy-peasy playoff win before that 2007 series victory happened an entire decade earlier when the great Greg Ostertag-Adam Keefe Jazz teams of the ‘90s barely broke a sweat against the Spurs (4-1, second round) and the Lakers (4-0, including four Kobe Bryant airballs in the conference finals) en route to the 1998 NBA Finals.

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Considering that the Jazz have only ever won best-of-seven playoff series in four or five games five times, Tuesday’s disappointing 117-107 defeat to the Nuggets seemed to be more probable than not based on the franchise’s 46-year history.

In addition, the Jazz only won four best-of-five series in fewer than five games. And though Utah has won 24 playoff series overall (of the 52 series they’ve been in prior to this one), it’s suffered at least two losses 15 times.

It’s understandable that the Jazz and their fans are frustrated after a 15-point second-half lead evaporated and Jamal Murray continued to shoot the ball like a poor man’s Donovan Mitchell in this loss, but there are reasons to be positive.

For one thing, this series shifts back to Virtual Utah for Game 6, and you just can’t say enough about the 300 fans the Jazz put on the screen.

For another, the Jazz have never lost a playoff series after taking a 3-1 lead. Yeah, they’ve blown another game or two, but they’ve ended up winning in all nine of the previous similar scenarios.

For another, Part 2, it’s not likely Murray (42 points on 17 of 26 shooting) and All-Star Nikola Jokic (31 points, 12 of 19 shooting, including a jaw-dropping Dirk Nowitzki-esque first-half performance) can both play as well again at the same time as they did and needed to in order to beat Utah.

For another, Part 3, the Jazz have more offensive tools than the Nuggets with Mitchell, Conley, Clarkson, Joe Ingles (usually), Gobert (sometimes) and even Royce O’Neale (except when he freezes at the 3-point line late in the game and decides to turn the ball over instead of shoot). That should give them the advantage to win one of the next two games even if Mitchell doesn’t return to 50-point land.

Though it would have been fun for the Jazz to defy their franchise proclivity and quickly close out a series so their fans didn’t have to sweat it out, talented teams like the Nuggets are not exactly inclined to leave the playoffs and/or bubble so soon.

But I’ll have to agree with what former NBA coach and current TNT color analyst Stan Van Gundy said near the end of Game 5 while talking of the amazing back-and-forth, mano-a-mano battle we’ve witnessed between Mitchell and Murray.

“This has been a fabulous series,” Van Gundy said. “And it’s good for the fans that they get another game or two of this.”

Nuggets fans are particularly grateful for an extension.

Jazz fans will have to hope history — the good kind of history — repeats itself for them to enjoy this series being stretched out.