The Timberwolves are looking to play spoiler in this one. The Jazz currently sit one-and-a-half games behind the #8 L.A. Lakers. If the Jazz want to make the playoffs, they'll need to win their last two games (tonight and Wednesday in Memphis) and have the Lakers lose their final game of the season (on Wednesday) vs. the Rockets. The Jazz would make the playoffs because they hold the tiebreaker, by winning the season series over the Lakers. Ultimately, if the Wolves beat the Jazz tonight, they'll effectively eliminate them from the playoffs.
The Jazz will be going for a 5th-straight win over the Wolves in this one and 9th of 11 overall. If the Wolves do want to spoil Utah's plans, they'll need to find a way to slow down Big Al. Jefferson dropped a career-high tying 40 points on Friday vs. the Wolves on 19-27 shooting in that 107-100 Wolves loss. It's unknown if Nikola Pekovic will play tonight or at all again this season. If we have to rely on Greg Stiemsma again, chalk up another 30+ point night for Al.
The Jazz will be looking for their first season series sweep of the Wolves since 1998-99. The Jazz have won the previous three meetings and are averaging 103.3 points per game on 50% shooting in those contests.
However, the Jazz are 12-27 on the road this season. The Wolves are 20-20 at home and have also won 4 of their last 6 games at the Target Center.
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
Ricky Rubio (10.7P, 4R, 7.5A, 2.4S)
Luke Ridnour (11.6P, 3.8A, 1S)
Andrei Kirilenko (12.6P, 5.6R, 1.5S, 1B)
Derrick Williams (11.8P, 5.5R, 0.6S)
Nikola Pekovic (16.3P, 8.8R, 0.8B)
Mo Williams (12.9P, 6.3A, 0.9S)
Randy Foye (10.8P, 2R, 0.8S)
Gordon Hayward (14.3P, 3.1R, 3A)
Paul Millsap (14.8P, 7.1R, 1.3S, 1B)
Al Jefferson (17.7P, 9.1R, 1S, 1.1B)
Randy Foye drilled five threes on Friday night and finished 16 points as well. Have to keep him off the three-point line as those threes are usually a back breaker for this Wolves squad that ultimately can't hit threes.
Gordon Hayward was very quiet finishing with just 5 points on Friday. That's 9.3 points below his season average. I'd fully expect him to be a bit more involved, however you've got to think some of that low-scoring night can be chalked up to who he replaced in Utah: Andrei Kirilenko.
Paul Millsap, like the others mentioned deferred to Al Jefferson. Add to that, the early foul trouble he found himself in and he didn't get a whole lot of run. I'd expect him to be a bit more involved especially if Pekovic plays and Millsap is being guarded by Derrick Williams.
Al Jefferson. I REALLY hope Nikola Pekovic plays in this one, otherwise, I'm not sure how you stop Big Al. You could choose to go to a 2-3 zone, but then guys like Mo, Foye & Hayward will just rain threes on you. Pekovic isn't a great low-post defender, but a lot of Al's buckets on Friday came by simply overpowering the much weaker Greg Stiemsma. You know that simply won't happen if Pek's playing.
Nikola Pekovic is a likely gametime decision in this one. He's averaging 21 points on 55.9% in his last seven games--before missing these last two with that quad contusion.
Tipoff for this one is set for 7pmCT, enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!