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Utah Jazz fans and sports bar owners adjusting to unusual NBA playoffs schedule
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Jazz fans and sports bars adjusting to unusual NBA playoffs schedule

(Donovan MItchell, right, going for a shot against Nuggets' Nikola Jokic in Game 1. Credit: AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool, via Deseret News)

WEST VALLEY CITY – Despite an amazing performance from Donovan Mitchell, the Utah Jazz suffered a heartbreaking loss in the first game of their playoffs series against the Denver Nuggets, 135-125.  Some fans and sports bar managers say this could be the most unusual NBA playoffs they’ll ever see, and they’re trying to adjust to this kind of format.

Before noon on a Monday isn’t exactly the start time most fans are used to for a Jazz game in the NBA playoffs.  Yet, thanks to COVID-19, that’s exactly when the Jazz and the Nuggets started playing in their first game of their first-round series.  Donovan Mitchell put up 57 points, but the Nuggets won in overtime.

Even with the early tip-off, if you were to walk into The Break Sports Grill in West Valley, you shouldn’t be surprised to see die-hard fans like Gary James.  He’s thrilled just to see any games being played, at all, although, he says the season before the playoffs were so short, he doesn’t know what to expect from the team.

James says, “I’m going to watch the games because I’m a big fan, and I enjoy basketball, but I’m not expecting a lot.”

This kind of tournament format isn’t exactly something sports bar operators haven’t seen before.  The Break General Manager Ryan Oliver says it’s similar to what they see during the NCAA Championship, but in many ways, it doesn’t have that NBA playoff feel.

“These start times have been interesting.  I understand they’re all playing on the same court, so they’ve got to schedule appropriately, but these 11 o’clock or 12 o’clock start times are a little different,” Oliver says.  “We have our fingers crossed that they’ll do well.  We have our fingers crossed that the interest will be there.”

The Shorthanded Jazz

The absence of two Jazz starters is expected to have a major impact in their playoffs series against the Nuggets.  Bojan Bogdanović had season-ending wrist surgery in May, when the league wasn’t sure if any kind of playoff tournament would be played, at all.  Mike Conley left “The Bubble” for the birth of his son, Elijah. 

Conley will be allowed to return, but he’ll have be isolated for a while.

“As long as a guy who is away from ‘The Bubble’ can get tested for coronavirus every day while they’re gone and return those negative tests, they can come back and quarantine for about four days from the time they entered to the time they’re cleared,” according to KSL Jazz Insider Ben Anderson.

With Bogdanović and Conley out, Anderson says the Jazz will have to make serious adjustments against Denver.  He believes they’re going to shoot as many three-point shots in the early stages of the game as they can.

Anderson says, “It’s kind of like a boxer who just throws big punches and hopes, ‘Hey, if I can land one, if I can land a haymaker, I can win that boxing match.’  The Jazz are hoping they can hit 20 three-pointers a game.”

The next game is scheduled for Wednesday at 2 p.m. Utah time.

 

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