TakeNote!

That’s the Jazz’s motto this season and they’ve more than lived up to the name. The Utah franchise transformed itself from a young and inexperienced squad to one of the top teams in the NBA this year.

And after a wild and crazy series — that included a Game 7 road win over the Los Angeles Clippers — the Jazz clinched their first playoff series win since 2010.

So after grinding out the series win, Utah’s reward is a matchup against the NBA’s top team in the Golden State Warriors. NBA analysts and prognosticators have already penciled in the Warriors into the Western Conference Finals, but don’t fret Jazz fans, here’s why the series is going to be a lot closer than most people expect.

The Series

There is a reason why members of the GSW wanted the Clippers to clinch the series over the Jazz. Yes, the “nightlife” answers were over the top, but if you look closely, the Jazz actually matchup better with the Warriors than the Clippers do. And it only amplified when the Clippers lost Blake Griffin to a season-ending injury in Game 3.

Even with Griffin, the Warriors easily won all four regular-season games against the Clippers with its margin of victory standing at 21.5 points per game. Against the Jazz, the Warriors took two of three games, but its margin of victory stood at 10.3 points per game. Two of those games ended up in single digits, something the Clippers could never do. And in all three games, the Warriors were held below their season average (a league-high of 115.9 ppg) against the Jazz too.

The series is going to be a good one as it features two of the top 5 teams in the league based on the regular-season standings. Don’t forget either, that the Jazz handed the Warriors their last loss over the last seven weeks (20 games).

But for whatever reason, Vegas thinks otherwise. According to the latest odds, the Warriors are heavily favored. If a Jazz fan were to take the bet, he/she would earn a 17-1 return on their investment if the Jazz come out on top.

For Warrior fans, and to make any significant money, you would have to mortgage the house, sell a kidney and likely cash out the 401K too.

While the numbers say the Warriors are likely “unbeatable” in what many call a David vs. Goliath matchup, when you have Rudy Gobert as your slingshot, you have to like your chances.

Notes/Keys to the game

The Jazz need to slow the game down and limit GSW’s possessions. They did just that against the high-flying Clippers as just 7.6 percent of the Jazz’s possessions came in transition, the lowest rate in the first round.

The Jazz go as George Hill goes. With the veteran out on the floor, the Jazz outscored the Clippers by 35 points. But when he was on the bench, the Jazz were outscored by 27 points.

Feed Rudy Gobert!! The 7-foot-1 Frenchman simply can’t be stopped against the Warriors. Gobert was one of just two players to average at least 15 points and 15 rebounds against GSW. It also helps that the Warriors are all about offense and aren’t necessarily rim protectors like the Jazz pride themselves on being.

The Jazz need to get great games out of Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood. The duo combined to go 0-for-9 from downtown in the only game both players suited up for against the Warriors in the blowout loss.

Not only did they miss two games each in the regular-season series, but Derrick Favors — who came up big for the Jazz in the series win over the Clippers — didn’t play in all three games against GSW. Meanwhile, the Warriors were nearly at full strength with only Klay Thompson missing one game due to rest.

Bottom Line

The Utah Jazz don’t have anything to lose. The season was already a success by winning 50-plus games with a roster full of injured players and a new starting lineup nearly every game this season. Not to mention, they are still playing basketball in May!

Being a small market team, the Jazz are often overlooked. When they win, it’s because the other teams “beat themselves.” While it’s going to be the “us against the world mentality” for the Jazz, at least they have arguably the best-supporting fanbase and one of the loudest arenas in the league to fall back on.

While I’m not saying the Jazz are going to sweep the Warriors by any means, don’t expect GSW to run away with the series either. Expect hard-fought games that comes down to the wire.

And when the series runs six or seven games, smile and say to all the naysayers, “TakeNote.”

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