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Wolves at Jazz: Trying to Stem the Tide

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The Wolves will look to finish their road trip with a win in Utah tonight.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves at Jazz
8:00 pm CST
FS North

It’s good news and bad news that Rudy Gobert is out tonight for the Utah Jazz due to a bone bruise on his knee.

The good news, of course, is that he’s yet another terrific player the Wolves avoid.

The bad news, beyond the obvious that we never like injuries, is that it means there is no chance that Andrew Wiggins dunks in his grill tonight. Oh well.

The Wolves will try to salvage one win out of this three game trip after losses to Golden State and, painfully, to the Phoenix Suns. Things really fell apart in the Suns game, with the Wolves struggling on both ends, taking contested and ill-advised shots on offense, and allowing the Suns’ wings to go off at the other end.

They need to right the ship tonight in Utah, where the Jazz had been struggling until a get healthy win against the Brooklyn Nets the other day.

Of course the Jazz feature our favorite Spanish Unicorn. Ricky Rubio started the season hot with his jumper, and was playing much more for his own shot than we ever saw in Minnesota, but has cooled off considerably, as might be expected. He reverted more to what we are used to against Brooklyn, taking only nine shots and finishing with a 10-7-8 plus 4 steals line, something we saw time and again with the Wolves.

He has not yet been able to foster chemistry offensively with Gobert, but appears to do better when running the pick and roll with Derrick Favors, so we might see an uptick in offensive efficiency for the Jazz with Gobert out, but likely a hit defensively as well.

Overall, the Jazz are much the opposite of the Wolves, featuring a top defense (third in the league) and a poor offense (27th overall.) This is not surprising, as they have regularly featured a stingy defense in the Quin Snyder era, while struggling to score. Now they are without Gordon Hayward, leaving them largely without an offensive fulcrum.

They do have six players averaging in double-figures (including the absent Gobert,) so they are spreading things around, but only Joe Ingles who is lights out from three, and Derrick Favors are scoring with efficiency. Rodney Hood, who is their leading scorer, has been struggling with his shot, and rookie Donovan Mitchell, while showing flashes of an excellent player, has not been remotely consistent.

For the Wolves, they need to rebound from their dismal outing in Phoenix. 8-5 sounds better than 7-6, and there is no reason for them to get swept on this trip. They seemed out of sorts against the Suns, with Jimmy Butler forcing things, Jeff Teague hesitant and struggling, and Karl-Anthony Towns lacking any sense of dominance. I expect them to play better tonight, win or lose. One key, as always, is transition defense, something that let them down again in Phoenix. The Jazz are not a fast team, but against Brooklyn showed they can get out and run, and of course we are familiar with Rubio in transition.

They also have to have sharper ball movement against a quality defensive team. I thought they were moving the ball very well through much of their five game winning streak, but they seem to have lost the plot recently.

It sounds like Gorgui Dieng will not be available again tonight, which is too bad, but Tom Thibodeau needs to make better use of his bench, especially when they are playing well. He really hasn’t been mixing and matching very much, which is not surprising given what we saw last season, but it would behoove him to do so.

At any rate, a little bit of an important game so as not to let this snowball on them, with the Spurs coming to Target Center in their first game back home.

Expected Lineups

Jazz

Ricky Rubio
Donovan Mitchell
Joe Ingles
Thabo Sefolosha
Derrick Favors

Wolves

Jeff Teague
Jimmy Butler
Andrew Wiggins
Taj Gibson
Karl-Anthony Towns

Our blogging buddies are over at SLC Dunk. Be excellent.

Enjoy the game. Chat here. Go Wolves.