The Timberwolves are coming off a very disappointing overtime loss to the Denver Nuggets on Monday, but they'll be facing another division rival: the Utah Jazz, on Wednesday night, back at the Target Center.
The Wolves are currently 16-17 this season and with a win on Wednesday they'll move back to .500 on the season. The Wolves are currently 7-7 on the road this season (.500). But, they'll be playing at the Target Center on Wednesday, where they're 9-10 on the year! So, a win vs. the Jazz will put the TWolves at .500 on the road, at home and overall! A W over the Jazz would also be the TWolves' first win over a division opponent this season (with unsuccessful attempts vs. OKC, UTA & DEN).
The Jazz also played on Monday. They too lost. The San Antonio Spurs defeated them 106-102. Al Jefferson had 20pts & 11rebs, Millsap added 16pts & 11rebs. It came down to the final seconds but a three-pointer from the Spurs' Richard Jefferson put the Spurs up with just 6.5 seconds to play, giving San Antonio the win.
Utah's usual starting five includes, PG: Devin Harris, SG: Raja Bell, SF: Gordon Hayward, PF: Paul Millsap, C: Al Jefferson. However, vs. the Spurs, because Raja Bell is currently nursing a groin injury, Josh Howard started in his place. Bell is listed as a gametime decision for Wednesday's game, but if he can't play--expect Howard to start, once again.
For Minnesota, they may be without two of their centers. Darko Milicic missed Monday's game vs. the Nuggets with a stomach muscle ailment. He's currently listed as day-to-day and is considered doubtful for this one. Nikola Pekovic is also nursing an injury. Pek went down in the second quarter of Monday's game with a sprained ankle. He's currently listed as questionable vs. the Jazz. They say they'll know if he'll be able to play during the shootaround on Wednesday morning/afternoon. If he can't play, Brad Miller may start at center or Adelman may choose to start a frontcourt of Love at center and either Derrick Williams or Michael Beasley at power forward. Wouldn't be bad matchups either: Love vs. Jefferson & D-Will/Beas vs. Millsap.
The Jazz are currently averaging 96.1ppg (11th in the NBA), while allowing opponents 97.6 (24th in the NBA). They're also considered an average rebounding and assisting team: 42.4rpg (15th) & 20.6apg (17th).
In the last meeting between these two, the Timberwolves were able to stay close all game, however the TWolves' offense went stagnant in the fourth quarter and the Jazz rallied to take down Minnesota. That was the first game Kevin Love was unable to register a double-double, finishing with just 15pts & 8rebs. Minnesota needs four solid quarters to take down a Jazz team that's lost seven of their last 9 games.
This one will come down to the battle in the paint, especially if Nikola Pekovic is able to play! It'll come down to limiting Paul Millsap & Al Jefferson. Other guys like Devin Harris or Gordon Hayward may have a good outing, but limiting the big guys will be key.
Wednesday's game will be the Timberwolves' last game before the All-Star break. The Timberwolves will have Thursday-Monday off. Kevin Love, Derrick Williams & Ricky Rubio will be down in Orlando participating in: the All-Star Game, Three-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest & the Rising Stars Challenge. The Timberwolves will return from their time off with their second and last back-to-back-to-back: Tuesday (2/28) vs. the L.A. Clippers, Wednesday (2/29) vs. the L.A. Lakers, concluded by Thursday (3/1) vs. the Phoenix Suns.
A win would drop Utah to 5th in the Northwest and move Minnesota to 4th. It would also put Minnesota just half a game back in the Western Conference to the 9th place Trailblazers. The Blazers of course beat the Spurs on Tuesday night 137-97!
MISC. NOTES: Utah's Jeremy Evans will reportedly be competing in the Slam Dunk Contest this weekend as he replaces New York's Iman Shumpert. Evans joins Derrick Williams, Paul George & Chase Budinger....the NBA named Utah's Derrick Favors to the Rising Stars Challenge as a replacement to the injured Tiago Splitter, a spot that could have been Nikola Pekovic's. I'm not sure if the NBA didn't give him the spot because of the ankle injury or if they just overlooked him as the rest of the NBA continues to do as they're caught up in "Linsanity"...
That's all for now. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!