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Tim's Game Preview: Game 16, Utah Jazz

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Act like you've been there before? Nah. Act like you're going to be there for the next decade.

Minnesota Timberwolves (15-0) vs. Utah Jazz (9-5) at EnergySolutions Arena

Please, keep doubting the Wolves.

Please keep saying that Kevin Love is not the type of player you can give the ball to in late game situations. Keep saying that Blake Griffin is a better player. Keep saying that Rubio can't shoot, that Darko is a bum and that David Kahn didn't know what he was doing all along.

It just makes it that much better when we win.

That's right, Utah. I said 'when' we win. Tonight is a when and a win and the only thing that could stop that is Jerry Sloan coming off of the ranch, Karl Malone putting on some Skechers Shape-Ups and the Deron Williams trade getting nixed for basketball reasons.

Let's break down tonight's matchups:


It's no laughing matter for Darko after last night's performance.

Darko Milicic vs. Al Jefferson

Stop-n-Pop captured Darko's performance against the Clippers better than I could do, but here are the facts: 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting. 7 rebounds. 2 assists. 2 blocks. And even though he ended up fouling out, he played very solid defense on Blake Griffin throughout the game.

Tonight, Darko will up against former Timberwolves' savior Al Jefferson, who has helped the Utah Jazz defy expectations so far this season. Through 14 games, Jefferson is putting up pre-injury numbers and has the Jazz 4 games above .500.

It's hoping for a lot to think Darko can consistently turn in the type of performances that he did last night, but I think he's perfectly suited to stop Jefferson's game and expect another strong defensive effort tonight.

Winner: Darko Milicic


Other than Charles Barkley, it seems like every national NBA analyst underrates Kevin Love's game, especially compared to other power forwards.

Kevin Love vs. Paul Millsap

Let's go down the list...

Blake Griffin: Great dunks, bad Kia commercials and not a whole lot more in between.

LaMarcus Aldridge: Somebody wake me up the next time the Blazers are relevant.

Chris Bosh:: Calling him a third wheel would be kind.

Dirk Nowitzki: Love can shoot like Dirk, but Dirk can't rebound like Love.

Paul Millsap: He only made this list because he's playing tonight.

Pick any other power forward you want. Kevin Garnett, Carlos Boozer, Amar'e Stoudemire, Tim Duncan. No sane person would rather have any of those players on their team over K-Love.

Winner: Kevin Love


Gordon Hayward is best known for a game-winning shot that he missed.

Wesley Johnson vs. Gordon Hayward

If Gordon Hayward ever figures out how to be a basketball player, he might be okay. Right now, though, he's just a bundle of athleticism without any idea how to put that into use. He can jump high, block some shots and finish at the rim. He does not seem to know how to run a pick-and-roll, however, and both his shooting and ball handling are subpar. He would have been a nice project for coach Jerry Sloan, but I guess Deron Williams messed that one up for everybody. Sorry, Utah.

Wesley Johnson was not on the court for the final buzzer beater last night, but I'm sure Wolves fans would've felt just as comfortable with him taking the last shot, right? Although, to be fair, Johnson seems to have picked up the habit of pump faking at the three point line and driving it into the lane. After shooting only 2 free throws in the first 13 games combined, Johnson has taken 7 free throws over the last 2 games. Given that he's shooting a ripe .156 from downtown in the month of January, it is the preferable strategy.

Winner: Wesley Johnson


I'm sure this photo endears Raja Bell to a lot of Wolves fans.

Luke Ridnour vs. Raja Bell

I remember when Raja Bell was talked about last year as a desirable trade target for the Timberwolves. Perhaps some Wolves fans still think he'd be a nice addition on the wing. With Luke Ridnour playing so well, though, and Wayne Ellington coming through as a backup wing, I think Bell would just take minutes away from more deserving players.

Take Ellington, for example. Over his last four games, he's averaging 12 points on 64% shooting (50% from 3-point range). Since he has been Makin' It Wayne so often, keep giving him minutes and don't waste the time or money trying to acquire overpriced veterans.

Winner: Luke Ridnour


Harris-to-Favors has not exactly replaced Stockton-to-Malone.

Ricky Rubio vs. Devin Harris

A few years ago, Mark Cuban was being derided for trading young point guard Devin Harris to New Jersey for the aging Jason Kidd. Now, Kidd is a reigning NBA Champion and Harris is failing to replace Deron Williams as point guard of the Jazz.

Harris is not having a stellar season. His shooting percentages and his usage rate are both way down, his turnover % is way up, and his PER has sunk to 11.7 - the lowest of his career.

Ricky Rubio showed some major cajones last night when he took a game-tying three after going 0-10 from the floor in the first 47 minutes of the game. Hopefully that can get his shooting back on track and we can see another magical, Unicorn-like performance.

Winner: Ricky Rubio


Clearly, Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin had a long-lasting impression in Minnesota

My Prediction: Timberwolves 94 - Utah Jazz 88

Timberwolves' Record: 16-0