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Game Preview #32: Wolves at Jazz

Minnesota look to avenge a 32-point loss amid another devastating loss to health & safety protocol.

Dallas Mavericks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

As the NBA and NBPA near an agreement to decrease the amount of time for players to exit COVID-19 health & safety protocols in order to unethically clear star players for their Christmas day money grab, the Timberwolves are still left with a laundry list of unavailable players for their final game before their mini “holiday break.” Unlike their similarly roster-challenged opponents on Tuesday, they draw a nearly completely healthy Utah Jazz team who have been running through the NBA like a buzz saw.

If that wasn’t enough, just a few hours before tipoff, we all received the devastating news that Karl-Anthony Towns tested positive. Kyle Theige covered it in detail earlier, but this was tough to hear regardless of the on-court impact. Please send any positive energy and love to KAT and his family as he hopefully has a less difficult time recovering from this compared to his first bout.

*deep breath filled with despair*


Game Info

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (15-16; 9th) at Utah Jazz (21-9; 3rd)
When: 8:00 pm CST
TV: Bally Sports North
Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio


Injury Report

UTAH JAZZ:

Miye Oni - QUESTIONABLE
Udoka Azubuike - OUT
Malik Fits - OUT


What To Watch For

  • The Jazz host the Wolves in game 4 of their season long 6-game homestand. The last time these two teams faced off, it was a spirited battle. Well, if the battle ended after just 24 minutes, not 48 minutes. Minnesota trailed 59-60 at the half, led by Patrick Beverley’s 14 points and Anthony Edwards 15 points, before getting totally demolished 76-45 in the second half. Donovan Mitchell got any and everything he wanted as evidenced by his 36 points on 61% shooting from the field, Karl-Anthony Towns finished with a team-high 22 points. What’s going to happen tonight without the three aforementioned players for Minnesota?
  • The Wolves trotted out a starting lineup of Bolmaro, Russell, Beasley, McDaniels, and Towns against the short-handed Mavericks on Tuesday. Naz Reid ended up getting the 2nd half start alongside KAT in the frontcourt, as Lea no longer saw any action after his opening stint. I’ll be curious to see who gets the majority of minutes tonight. Will Finch continue employing Bolmaro for his defensive ability against Mitchell? Will Nowell, if active, get significantly more minutes? Nathan Knight had a strong, albeit brief, showing which could warrant more minutes especially with KAT out?
  • The Jazz are 1st in the league in three pointers made (15.7) this season, in case you couldn’t tell by their 25 3PM performance last time they faced Minnesota. I sound like a broken record by now, but the Wolves will still be missing 3 of their best perimeter defenders tonight so the question isn’t IF the #1 team in offensive rating will be successful from perimeter, but HOW successful they will be. Conversely, I was surprised to see the Wolves at 3rd in the league at 3PM per game, although it’s hard to feel optimistic about that number especially considering they’re missing their top three point shooters (Edwards; 3.1 per game & Towns; 2.4 per game).
  • The broken record continues to spin. Overall control of the glass has been one of the weakest areas for the Timberwolves this season. They’re down at 24th in rebound percentage (49%) and are missing the 21st century of Dennis Rodman in their lineup as well as their star center. That weakness will only be amplified by their opponent, who ranks 1st in that same statistic (53.1%). Yikes.

Predictions

  • Naz Reid finally assumes the mantle of the best center in the league. He destroys Rudy Gobert to the tune of a career-high 35 points off three pointers and spinning layups. Sports Center opens up their show with this beautiful video:
  • After a terrible 1 for 11 performance from perimeter, D’Angelo Russell cooks up delicious shooting display tonight. As he drills his 10th triple of the game, D’Lo winks and points over to fellow ANTA teammate and Jazz part-owner Dwyane Wade, who’s sitting courtside. Donovan Mitchell looks over sadly from his own bench and wonders how much more awesome his NBA career would be if he was in a Timberwolves jersey instead.
  • Now having lost 3 of their last 4 games, Donovan Mitchell leads a “players only” meeting where he ignites a mutiny against the Jazz front office for trading Ricky Rubio away. Fearful of potential backlash and a Ben Simmons type situation, Jazz GM Justin Zanik trades Mitchell to Minnesota for Jake Layman and an unlimited supply of Arby’s Classic Beef ‘N Cheddars. Wolves win, 102-95.