NBA Game of the Week for the Week of April 23-April 26
NBA fans, the final week of this lockout-shortened, 66-game season is upon us, and the 2012 NBA Playoffs are set to begin this Saturday, April 28. This week's NBA Game of the Week between the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz features the two teams battling for the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff berth. This will be the third and final regular-season meeting between the Suns and Jazz. Phoenix won the first two games and owns the tiebreaker should the two teams finish the season with the same record.
Both the Suns and Jazz come into this week controlling their own destinies and this will be the first game of the week for both teams. Two games remain on each team's schedule and the eighth-place Jazz hold a one-game lead over the ninth-place Suns. Utah is in the driver's seat and can clinch a spot in the postseason by simply winning the NBA Game of the Week on Tuesday, April 24.
For Phoenix the road to the playoffs requires more than one step. First, the Suns would have to pull into a tie with the Jazz by sweeping the season series 3-0 and putting the tiebreaker into play. Next, the Suns would have to either defeat the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, April 25 or have the Jazz lose their final game of the season to the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday, April 26.
(All statistics and records are through April 22)
Tuesday, April 24, Phoenix Suns (33-31) at Utah Jazz (34-30), 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT
In the first two matchups between these teams, Utah allowed Phoenix to shoot an incredible 44 percent (22 for 50) from three-point land. If the Jazz want to control their destiny and take the simple path to the playoffs, they will have to do a much better job of defending the three. Otherwise, Utah's road to the postseason may reach a dead end before they even get a chance to host the Trail Blazers on Thursday.
The Suns have won seven straight games against the Jazz and can keep their playoff hopes alive by extending that streak to eight. Getting an eighth straight victory over Utah would put the Suns in a position to possibly earn the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. With a victory over the Jazz, Phoenix would overtake Utah for the eighth spot by virtue of the tiebreaker. Then on Wednesday night, against the San Antonio Spurs, the Suns would get an opportunity to lock up that final playoff spot and put an end to Utah's playoff run with a win.
The Western Conference's final playoff berth may be determined as early as Tuesday--Utah will be in with a victory over the Suns. But if Phoenix wins Tuesday--the Suns will be in if they can follow it up with a victory over the Spurs on Wednesday. Or, if Phoenix wins Tuesday and then loses on Wednesday, it may not be determined until Thursday--the Jazz will be in with a victory over the Trail Blazers, but if Utah loses, Phoenix will be in.
Mark is a lifelong NBA fan who has loved the game of basketball ever since his first trip to an NBA arena. Mark has watched more basketball games than anyone can count and has more than 100 articles about the NBA published on the internet. Mark also shares his random NBA musings and game-by-game predictions on RandomNBAFan.com.
Information from ESPN.com's NBA Schedule, 2011-2012 NBA Regular Season Conference Standings, Utah Jazz vs. Phoenix Suns--Box Score--March 14, 2012 and Phoenix Suns vs. Utah Jazz--Box Score--April 04, 2012 was used for this article.
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