In order to make the NBA playoffs, the Utah Jazz must beat the Grizzlies in Memphis Wednesday night, and the Los Angeles Lakers must lose at home to the Houston Rockets. If both of those things happen, the Jazz will earn the 8th seed in the Western Conference and play the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. If not, the Jazz will miss the playoffs for just the second time in the last seven years.
"I love my chances," said center Al Jefferson. "I think we're playing well right now. We're playing well enough to win on the road. I think Memphis is a good team, but I love my chances."
"It's very exciting to be put in this situation," said Paul Millsap. "We know we have to win no matter what happens. We have to win our game."
"We're going to have to go out and play well against Memphis," added head coach Tyrone Corbin. "But this group of guys has been resilient all season long."
Memphis will not lay down in the final game of the season. The Grizzlies are still playing for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Fortunately for the Jazz, the Rockets are playing for playoff seeding and will not rest their starters against the Lakers. Still, Jefferson thought he might get in touch with his former coach, Kevin McHale, now head coach of the Rockets.
"I guess I need to get in touch with Kevin McHale and tell him to handle that for me," Jefferson said. "[He can] give me a late birthday present."
The Jazz have been playing better on the road lately, having won three in a row including 96-80 victory over Minnesota Monday night. The Jazz have won 9 of its last 11 games overall and are handling these must-win situations well.
"We don't want to put too much pressure on ourselves," said Gordon Hayward. "But we have to make sure we're focused again. Memphis is going to be tough at their place, so we're going to try to take the crowd out of it."
"I've made a conscious effort to keep everybody loose and keep everybody joking around," said point guard Mo Williams. "Even though everybody deep down has a little nerves in them because we know it's a must win, we have to stay loose."
The Jazz have lost 2 of 3 games against the Grizzlies this season, including a 103-94 loss in their only trip to Memphis this season on November 5th. Utah beat the Grizzlies at home at March 16th, 90-84.
The Rockets are 2-1 against the Lakers this season.
Since the Jazz play at 6:00 p.m. mountain time and the Lakers tip at 8:30, if the Jazz win, they most likely won't find out their playoff fate until after they land in Salt Lake City Wednesday night.