SACRAMENTO (ABC4 Sports) – For the first time in franchise history, the Utah Jazz have the outright best record in the NBA.
The Jazz clinched the #1 overall seed in the NBA Playoffs, pulling away from the Sacramento Kings in the final game of the regular season Sunday night, 121-99. A loss would have dropped the Jazz to the second seed behind Phoenix.
Jordan Clarkson scored 33 points, while Bojan Bogdanovic added 18 points, as the Jazz overcame an early 12-point deficit to dominate the Kings.
Utah (52-20) will open the playoffs next weekend against the 8th seed, which will be determined in the play-in tournament.
“I want all of all of us to enjoy this moment,” said head coach Quin Snyder. “I feel like if we do that, appreciate the regular season, and I think that transitions us to the mindset we need to have to try to play well in the playoffs.”
Rudy Gobert added 13 points and 16 rebounds, while Mike Conley had 11 points, six rebounds and nine assists in his second game back from a hamstring injury.
This is the third time the Jazz have been the number one seed in the Western Conference. But unlike in 1996-97 and 1997-78, this is the first time the Jazz have owned the NBA’s best record outright.
“Obviously, this is not our main goal,” Gobert said. “Our main goal is to get the championship. But we still have to enjoy this moment and be proud of the year and the work that we put in this year.”
Now comes the waiting game. Utah awaits one of the surviving teams from the play-in games that begin Tuesday and end Friday.
“In the Western Conference there’s not going to be anybody you want to play,” Conley said. “Everybody’s capable. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Utah led by 15 at halftime and continued to pull away in the second half. Bogdanovich scored nine points and dunked off a bounce pass from Royce O’Neal, while Clarkson added a pair of 3s as part of a 20-4 run in the third quarter. O’Neal’s 3-pointer later pushed Utah’s lead to 90-61.
Clarkson sank three free throws midway through the fourth to make it 113-87.
“It’s definitely a great feeling because we know we put a lot into it,” Clarkson said. “It started in the bubble (last year) and then through this year with guys going out, guys coming back, everybody staying tough and going through it. We’ve got bigger goals. We’re trying to play big-time in the playoffs and do something special.”
Conley, limited to 16 minutes against Oklahoma City on Friday in his return from a right hamstring injury, got the Jazz going after they sputtered early. He had 11 points with three 3s and seven assists to help Utah to a 64-49 lead.
“I was just telling the guys, this doesn’t happen every so often where you’re the #1 seed,” Conley said. “The number one team in the whole NBA in the regular season. So enjoy the moment that we’re in right now today, tonight and tomorrow, we get to think about the playoffs, so we’re just excited to be in this position.”