By Philip O’Connor
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Having made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals with former club Boston Celtics a year ago, sharp-shooting Swede Jonas Jerebko has told Reuters his Utah Jazz team fear no-one as the NBA playoffs get under way this weekend.
The Jazz burst into life in January and eventually finished fifth in the Western Conference with a 48-34 record, and they will face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.
“We take it one game, one series at a time, but we know that we can beat every team. It’s been an exciting season and we’ve played our best basketball at the end of it,” Jerebko said.
With a record 62 international players taking part in the NBA playoffs, the Swede is one of seven overseas players on the Jazz roster, but injury to French center Rudy Gobert almost ended their playoff hopes before they began.
“Rudy was injured, so we couldn’t play with our full team at the start of the season, and I think we had the toughest schedule in the whole NBA in November and December,” Jerebko said from his home in Salt Lake City.
“After those months, and when players started to come back, and Rudy started to come back, we got more used to playing together,” the 31-year-old explained.
“We knew we could go on a run but I don’t think too many expected that it would be as good as it was. It was a lot of fun towards the end of the season, but now the real season starts.”
The addition of former team mate Jae Crowder to the Jazz roster as a part of a three-team trade in February was a welcome boost for Jerebko, who also saw the ex-Celtic player move into his neighborhood.
“This will be our fourth straight post-season together. I knew he’d fit in well with the team. He’s a good friend of mine and it was nice to see him traded here,” he said.
Jerebko entered the NBA in 2009 and spent the next five-and-a-half seasons with the Detroit Pistons before being traded to the Boston Celtics, where he made the playoffs three years in a row.
After losing the Eastern Conference finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jerebko’s contract ran out and he signed for the Jazz, where he has averaged 41.4 percent from three-point range en route to another post-season and a series against OKC.
“I think it’s a good match-up for us. We didn’t really have a full team when we played against them in the regular season, so they haven’t played against our real team,” he said.
“They have a good team, with Paul George, Steven Adams, (Russell) Westbrook and Carmelo (Anthony), we know they’re gonna play a lot of minutes with those four.
“We have a broader roster, but we’ll see what will happen,” Jerebko said. “There’s going to be a lot of tough games.”
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor,; Editing by Neville Dalton)