The last time these two teams met, the result was an 84-106 blowout win for the Jazz in Utah on January 2nd. The Wolves were without Ricky Rubio (back spasms) for that one, however they did have Kevin Love and Andrei Kirilenko.
Tonight, the Wolves will have Ricky Rubio, but will be without Kevin Love (broken hand) and Andrei Kirilenko (strained quad). They'll also continue to be without Chase Budinger (knee), Brandon Roy (knees) and Malcom Lee (knee/hip).
The Jazz continue to play without their starting point guard--Mo Williams as he continues to rehab a severely strained thumb. Gordon Hayward played 23 minutes and scored 17pts and went 3-for-4 from deep in the last meeting, but he won't be playing tonight. Hayward is dealing with a shoulder injury. He did practice some yesterday, but reports say he's still experiencing pain--particularly when attempting over-his-head passes. And, of course, Raja Bell continues to not be with the team as he's getting paid his full season salary to 'stay away'.
The Jazz and the TWolves are two teams that have been rumored to be discussing some potential trade scenarios. The Jazz are on the hunt for a point guard, which the Wolves have plenty. Rumors of a Luke Ridnour for Alec Burks swap have emerged, the Wolves also have rumored interest in Gordon Hayward. The trade deadline is 10 days away and I'm sure we'll hear plenty more rumors involving the Wolves in the coming weeks. Especially since they're almost certainly out of the playoff picture.
The Wolves are currently 19-30 on the year and sit at 12th in the Western Conference, 7.5 games out of the eighth and final seed. With the way the Wolves have been playing as of late, it remains doubtful that they could put a string of wins together to get back in the chase. This meeting with Utah is Minnesota's last game until the All-Star break. With Minnesota grabbing just four wins in their last twenty outings, the break couldn't come at a better time!
The Jazz have been great at home this season, but unfortunately that hasn't carried over when they hit the road. Utah is just 9-18 on the road and have lost three-straight and 18 of their last 27 away from Salt Lake City. Utah currently sits at 7th in the Western Conference and with wins in their next two games (tonight vs. MIN and after the ASB vs. GSW) they'll move ahead in the rankings.
During Utah's three-game losing road losing streak, they've allowed opponents to score 109 points and to shoot 27-for-58 (46.5%) from deep. The Wolves are coming off a game (in CLE) where they shot 8-for-14 from deep and here's hoping that'll carry over to tonight (Gelabale hit 3-of-3 from deep in that game to become the Wolves' leading three-point shooter at .458).
While the Jazz have had their struggles on the road, the Wolves have struggled no matter where they play. However, Minnesota has lost 6 of their last 7 games at home. Three of those losses have come by six or fewer points as the Wolves have given themselves chances down the stretch, but have been unable to close games. It's no surprise the Wolves haven't been able to close out games as they're without someone who can hit clutch shots and 'close the door'. Luke Ridnour stepped up in this role in their last outing (that win in Cleveland) where he scored 13 of his 21 points in the final quarter.
Minnesota's backcourt (although undersized) have been playing very well as of late. Ricky Rubio is returning to form and is averaging 16 points and 8.3 assists in his last three outings. Luke Ridnour is averaging 19.3 points on 59.5% FG over that same stretch.
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
For once, we may not have to worry about the Wolves' backcourt being a big disadvantage in this one, if anything they'll be matchups they'll look to take advantage of. The big concern will be containing Utah's "Big Four" in the frontcourt: Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson and Enes Kanter. Minnesota's bigs will have their hands full, but the matchup I'm most worried about is Millsap vs. Williams. Derrick has played 'above-average' on defense this season, but Millsap is undoubtedly one of the NBA's better big men.
In the last meeting; Millsap, Jefferson, Kanter and Marvin Williams combined for 52 points to outscore Minnesota 56-36 in points in the paint. Locking down the paint will be key in this game.
The Jazz have won 8 of 10 in this series, but have lost their last two trips to Target Center. Here's hoping that continues tonight in Minneapolis. That's all for now, tipoff is set for 7pmCT, enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!