Where: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
When: 8:00 PM
See It: Fox Sports North
Hear It: WCCO AM 830
Written by Tom Westerholm. Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.
After games against Houston, New York, OKC and Miami, Minnesota would be excused for thinking the last five games have been difficult, but we can also excuse Utah for not shedding a tear. The Jazz are 1-4 in their last five games because Utah’s last five games have been BRUTAL. Two games against the Clippers, one game against Miami and one against Golden State have pushed the Jazz back to 15-17 overall and 3-7 in their last ten.
But the fact remains that the Jazz are 1-4 in their last five games and for Minnesota, once again competing with Utah for a low playoff seed in the Western Conference, every MIA/LAC/GSW loss for another contender is a good loss.
Tonight, two teams who really could use a win will tangle in EnergySolutions Arena in a homecoming of sorts for Andrei Kirilenko. The Jazz, as you may recall, feature a brutal murderer’s row of big men including Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and a familiar face in Al Jefferson. The three big men have a combined PER of 58.1 (19.7, 18.0 and 20.7 respectively) and collectively grab 49% of all available rebounds.
Here’s something strange: Minnesota is 29th in the NBA in total defensive rebounds. But the Wolves defensive rebounding PERCENTAGE is number one in the entire league at 76.1%. What does this tell us? There are any of a number of possibilities. First: Opponents hit a high percentage of shots, leading to fewer defensive rebounds. But that’s not the case. Minnesota’s opponents are shooting .444 overall, 14th in the NBA. That’s not ideal, but it’s also not extremely bad. Second: The Wolves play slowly and don’t end up with a lot of opponent possessions. This also isn’t the case: Minesota is 9th in pace in the NBA.
Either way, the Jazz are a very good rebounding team. They are 7th overall, but more importantly 4th in offensive rebounding. The frontcourt battle will probably play a big role in tonight’s game.
On the negative side, there could be a TON of missed jumpers tonight. Per @Clintonite33, an ESPN TrueHoop writer on Twitter and a very smart fan of the Jazz, Utah is the worst team in the NBA defending spot-up attempts. But as we are all aware, Minnesota is the worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA. So rather than being caught between a rock and a hard place, it will probably be more like being stuck between a pillow and a foam pit. But you get the idea.
After a nice win against the Suns, the Timberwolves could use a bit of momentum. Ricky Rubio’s absence (out for the next two games with back spasms) won’t help, but if the Timberwolves can take advantage of Utah’s mediocre spot-up defense, they may not need him to get an important win over a division rival.