Tonight, just one week removed from the last meeting between these teams, the Minnesota Timberwolves will attempt to level the season series with the Utah Jazz. The Wolves, on the road, defeated Utah last Monday, 106-104. The Jazz are 13-7 since the All-Star Break and, much like the Timberwolves, appear to have a bright future ahead of them.
The Jazz have achieved recent success despite mediocre production offensively, scoring just 100.3 points per 100 possessions--a rate that ranks 19th in the NBA. Utah's Net Rating (+7.3) ranks 5th and is thanks in large part to stellar defending; they rank atop the league in terms of Defensive Rating since the ASB, giving up merely 93.3 points per 100 possessions to their opponents.
It's no secret, Rudy Gobert is unquestionably the x-factor for the Jazz defensively. In the 657 minutes Gobert has played since the ASB, opponents have shot 41.3% from the field while averaging 93 points per 100 possessions--both figures sit below league averages.
Utah may need to depend heavily on their defense tonight against the Wolves, especially if Derrick Favors is unavailable. Favors did not play in Saturday's win over Oklahoma City and is currently listed as TBD (Back Spasms). It appears he'll be a gametime decision. Favors leads all Jazz players with 22, 10+ point/10+ rebound performances this season.
In the instance Favors is unable to play look for Gordon Hayward, who did not appear in last Monday's loss to the Wolves, to pick up the slack. Hayward has recorded 20, 10+ point/10+ rebound outings while posting averages 19.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 34.8 minutes per game this season.
Unsurprisingly, the Timberwolves are dealing with their own injury woes. Gorgui Dieng suffered a facial contusion during Sunday's loss to New Orleans. Dieng, alongside Kevin Martin (hamstring) and Ricky Rubio (ankle) are questionable. Gary Neal (ankle), Kevin Garnett (knee) and Nikola Pekovic (ankle) are doubtful. Shabazz Muhammad (finger) is out.
Moreover, prior to yesterday's defeat it was announced Sean Kilpatrick, signed to 10-day contract by way of injury exemption, had been released. The Wolves couldn't have possibly been granted an additional hardship exemption seeing as Anthony Bennett and Robbie Hummel returned to the lineup yesterday--both players should be available to go tonight.
While we don't know if, and for how long, the facial contusion will keep him sidelined, the Timberwolves should probably consider shutting Dieng down. Bennett, Hummel, Adreian Payne and Justin Hamilton are capable filling in at the 4 and 5 spots for the final nine games on the schedule. At this point what is there to lose? Outside of Andrew Wiggins, no other player was bestowed more responsibility in wake of all the injuries that have impacted the Wolves this season.
Quite frankly, fatigue seems to have taken its toll on Dieng, who has played more than double the amount of minutes amassed during his rookie year. Flip Saunders has even said Dieng is so tired that he's experienced trouble sleeping at night--this is at least partially explains why the Wolves went out and signed Hamilton when they did.
The dropoff in production is most-evident when comparing Dieng's rebounding percentages before the All-Star Break side-by-side with what he's done since then.
|MPG||PPG||RPG||OREB%||DREB%||TREB%||Decrease (OREB%, DREB%, TREB%)|
|Post-ASB||33.5||10.4||8.2||8.4%||19.2%||13.9%||-4.4%, -2.8%, -3.1%|
Additionally, Dieng's rebounding percentages (offensively, defensively and overall) in the last five games (8%, 15.4% and 12.1%) are even lower than his post-ASB averages. Remember, Dieng participated in the FIBA World Cup shortly after his rookie season was completed. He was in Las Vegas for Summer League after that, so, there really hasn't been many opportunities for Dieng to rest.
Considering all that has happened this year (you may call this Wolves Luck, or something) it might be a wise idea to shut him down.
I'm not usually a fan of music made before I was born. Don't ask me why. It's not a vendetta against the classics. It's just how it is. I heard this one on the radio the other day, so, I'm sharing it now.