Tim's Game Preview: Game 34, Utah Jazz

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Let's face it, Martell probably wouldn't have made the three-point shot anyway...

Minnesota Timberwolves (16-17) vs. Utah Jazz (15-16) at Target Center

Somehow, even though the Minnesota Timberwolves lost on Monday night to the Denver Nuggets, they managed to climb up the standings and are no longer in the basement of the Northwest division. Sitting in the 10th spot in the Western Conference, the Wolves are still having their best start in the last five seasons.

The Utah Jazz come into town having lost 9 of their last 12 games, including a 102-106 loss to San Antonio in Salt Lake City. Al Jefferson is 4-1 against his former team, including a January 21 home win against the Wolves in which Jefferson had 18 points and 12 rebounds. Kevin Love finished that game with only 15 points and 8 rebounds.

It is the final game before the NBA All-Star break and the Wolves are hoping for some momentum heading into the second half of the season.

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Word on the street is that Nikola Pekovic is planning on giving it a go tonight. Whether he'll start and how much he'll play is yet to be determined. I'm putting him in the projected lineup because I don't want to think about the possibility that Brad Miller could actually get a start tonight. (Thanks to Dave Chisholm for the head's up on this one)

Projected Starting Lineups

C: Nikola Pekovic vs. Al Jefferson
PF: Kevin Love vs. Paul Millsap
SF: Wesley Johnson vs. Josh Howard
SG: Luke Ridnour vs. Gordon Hayward
PG: Ricky Rubio vs. Devin Harris

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When debates about trading/not trading Al Jefferson were happening on this site, no one could've imagined that a most effective version of Jefferson was coming to our team from Europe. Who would choose Al Jeff over Pek right now?

Last 5 Games

Utah Jazz: (5th in Northwest; 9 1/2 gms behind OKC; 11th in West, 2 gms behind 8th seed)

Mon, Feb 13: Loss at New Orleans 80-86
Tue, Feb 14: Loss at Oklahoma City 85-111
Fri, Feb 17: Win vs. Washington 114-100
Sun, Feb 19: Loss at Houston 85-101
Mon, Feb 20: Loss vs. San Antonio 102-106

Minnesota Timberwolves: (4th in Northwest; 9 1/2 gms behind OKC; 10th in West, 2 gms behind 8th seed)

Mon, Feb 13: Loss at Orlando 89-102
Wed, Feb 15: Win vs. Charlotte 102-90
Fri, Feb 17: Win at Houston 111-98
Sun, Feb 19: Win vs. Philadelphia 92-91
Mon, Feb 20: Loss at Denver 101-103 (OT)

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With no Raja Bell tonight, the Utah Jazz will be relying upon Gordon Hayward for all of their missed shot attempts.

Injuries

Utah Jazz:

Raja Bell - Questionable with a strained right groin

Minnesota Timberwolves:

Darko Milicic - Questionable with an injured stomach/oblique muscle...after playing 0.1 seconds against Philadelphia

Nikola Pekovic - Questionable with a sprained right ankle

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There are more than a couple of Wolves players who could use Rick Adelman's intensity and competitiveness.

Noteworthy Stats

  • Michael Beasley and Kevin Love are now tied for number of shot attempts per-36 minutes at 16.4. J.J. Barea is 3rd with 15.4. Thankfully, Brad Miller and his .167 shooting percentage is last with 5.3 attempts per-36 minutes.
  • Al Jefferson leads the Jazz in shot attempts per-36 at 19.0. C.J. Miles is in a distant second place at 15.7. Jefferson also has the highest usage rate on the team (27.6%). Black hole, indeed.
  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 17.3 points and 10.3 rebounds during the month of February
  • Minnesota is 17th in the NBA in point differential at +1.2. Utah is in 19th at -1.5. Miami and Chicago are tied for 1st this season at +9.2, while Charlotte is 30th at -14.3. Last season, Minnesota was 28th in point differential at -6.6.
  • The Wolves take the fourth highest amount of free throw attempts per game at 26.0. They are 7th in free throw percentage at .779

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Derrick Favors was selected, instead of Nikola Pekovic, to replace Tiago Splitter in the NBA Rising Stars game at All-Star weekend in Orlando.

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