Wolves (24-24) at Jazz (27-22)
There is no circumstance more difficult in the NBA than a road back-to-back, but that is what the Wolves are dealing with right now. They cap off their road trip out west in Salt Lake City, just one night after a glorious team win over the Lakers.
In January, Utah has resembled the team we thought they’d look like all season. While there are several reasons for this, the major reason has been Donovan Mitchell’s improved play. His numbers on the season still don’t look all that great, but look at what he’s done over the past 10 games.
Donovan Mitchell's last 10 games:— Hans Olsen (@975Hans) January 25, 2019
1/5 Detroit 26pts 5ast
1/7 Bucks 26pts 1ast
1/9 Orlando 33pts 7ast
1/11 Lakers 33pts 9ast
1/12 Chic 34pts 6ast
1/14 Detroit 28pts 2ast
1/16 Clips 28pts 6ast
1/18 Cavs 24pts 4ast
1/21 Port 36pts 5ast
1/23 Denver 35pts 6ast
That is what we thought we’d see coming into this season. Mitchell seems to have pushed through the proverbial sophomore slump, and is back to looking like the dominant player that we saw at the end of last season.
I’d imagine Josh Okogie will get the Mitchell assignment for most of the evening, and he fared very well against Mitchell in the first meeting between these two teams. In a game where fatigue could set in, it’ll be nice to have our energizer bunny on the opposing team’s offensive leader.
The Andrew Wiggins/Joe Ingles matchup will be intriguing for a variety of reasons, but in my opinion, I’m most interested to see how Andrew handles Ingles defensive pressure. Ingles is a very, very good defender who is also one of the best trash talkers in the league. How Wiggins handles all of that will be extremely important, especially if we do see a bit more of “Point Wiggins” tonight. With Teague and Rose out, there will be much more.
The real big time matchup tonight, though, is the battle of the bigs. Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Rudy Gobert. Two all-star bigs with severely different playing styles will go head to head. Towns’ ability to step out and shoot is paramount against the Jazz, because it gets Gobert out of the paint. Despite what Chuck and Shaq tell you, I’d be happy to see Towns take 10 threes tonight. If the Wolves are driving into Gobert all night long, they’ll have no shot. He’s just too good at the rim.
The other thing that Towns’ shooting could provide tonight is mismatches in the post. If Utah elects to slide Gobert onto Taj Gibson in order to keep him around the rim, Towns should be able to destroy either Derrick Favors or Jae Crowder in the post. As long as KAT is able to stay on the floor, he can create some real problems for Gobert and the Jazz.
On the other side, Gobert will create some challenges for the KAT and the Wolves. He’s so big and long, that if you don’t stay connected to him on the pick-and-roll the lob to him is just too easy. This is something that the Jazz utilized time after time in the first meeting. All the Utah ball handler has to do is throw the ball somewhere near the rim and Gobert will go get it and stuff it down.
The Wolves’ pick-and-roll coverage has been a bit shaky off late, and you can believe that Mitchell and Ingles will see if the Wolves will be able to handle it.
Overall, I’m conflicted on how to feel about this game. On the one hand, the Wolves played a late game in LA last night, where they had to go deep into the bench. On the other hand, because Ryan Saunders went deep into the bench last night, only Wiggins and Okogie played a very high volume of minutes. Vegas has the Wolves as 10+ point underdogs tonight, so you can imagine how they feel about the Wolves chances.
Bet of the night
I’m in no way saying that you SHOULD make these bets. I’m not betting them. It’s just a fun extra thing that I’ll be tracking for the remainder of the season. All lines via Bovada.
Hey, we got into the win column last night! With the Wolves 120-105 victory, they covered the Wolves -1 line comfortably moving us to 1-1 thus far. We’ll try to keep it going again tonight.
The pick: Timberwolves +6 in the first half (-115)
I know Teague and Rose are out, but I think the Wolves can use Towns to create some matchup issues for Utah. Obviously, that all goes out the door if Towns gets in early foul trouble, but I’m not going to factor that in at the moment.
If the Timberwolves fatigue were to affect them, I’d expect it to happen in the second half. I think this line is just too big right now. I expect the Wolves to start fast tonight. Additionally, the Wolves have had no trouble scoring the ball recently, scoring over 100 points in every game that Ryan Saunders has coached. I’m not sure that Utah can score enough to completely blow the Wolves out.
Jeff Teague/Derrick Rose/Jerryd Bayless