Wolves at Jazz
8:00 pm Central
The Wolves travel to Utah to take on the Jazz in the first game of a five game western road trip. The Jazz are coming off a loss last night in Portland, and will be on the 2nd night of a back to back.
For the Wolves, Nikola Pekovic has been practicing, and there is hope that he might play this weekend, either tonight or tomorrow when the Wolves are in Portland, but no definitive word yet. Kevin Martin has not been cleared to play and will not appear tonight, but is travelling with the team on this trip and it's possible that he makes his return over the next week.
The Jazz, after starting the season a disastrous 1-14, have been playing credible basketball since then, with an 18-21 mark since late November. The Wolves, however, handled them fairly easily in both meetings so far this year, a home and home set in mid-January. However, in both of those games, particularly the one at Target Center, Pek was a major factor, someone the Jazz simply could not handle in the post. He combined for 45 points and 23 boards over the two games, so if Pek doesn't go tonight, the game could look a lot different.
Meanwhile, Flip Saunders mentioned on the radio that he expects injured center Ronny Turiaf to miss at least three weeks with his bone bruise, so the Wolves are really hurting for bigs all of sudden.
The Jazz might also be down a big man, as Derrick Favors missed last night's game with a hip problem; whether he will be available tonight is unknown.
The Jazz improvement coincided with rookie Trey Burke's return from injury, though it's hard to say how much causation exists there; it isn't as if Burke has been playing like a star. On the other hand, when you are replacing the likes of John Lucas and Jamaal Tinsley, merely poor play is a pretty big improvement. One specific positive thing that happened upon Burke's arrival is that the Jazz reduced their turnovers significantly.
On the flip side, they don't force turnovers either, and in fact don't do much of anything well on defense, as their 29th rated unit attests. The Wolves need to take advantage of that, push the pace and score the ball tonight. If they do so, there is every likelihood that the Jazz will not be able to keep up.
Here's a stab at possible lineups tonight, but with the injuries, who knows?
We'll see you later with a game thread.