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Game Preview #18: Wolves vs. Jazz

With both teams potentially short-handed, Rudy Gobert the Minnesota Timberwolves look to extend their lead in the Western Conference against John Collins and the Utah Jazz

NBA: Utah Jazz at Minnesota Timberwolves Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

With Anthony Edwards unlikely to play due to a right hip pointer, Rudy Gobert will aim for another win against his former team, the Utah Jazz, who themselves will be without their best player, Lauri Markkanen.


Game Info


Injury Report

Updated as of 5:50 PM CT Thursday:

Minnesota

OUT:

  • Jaylen Clark (right achilles tendon rupture rehab)
  • Anthony Edwards (right hip pointer)
  • Jaden McDaniels (Grade 1 lateral right ankle sprain)
  • Jordan McLaughlin (right knee MCL sprain)
  • Wendell Moore Jr. (G League assignment)

Utah

AVAILABLE:

  • Kelly Olynyk (right shoulder strain)

OUT:

  • Josh Christopher (G League assignment)
  • Jordan Clarkson (right thigh contusion)
  • Kris Dunn (personal reasons)
  • Taylor Hendricks (G League assignment)
  • Lauri Markkanen (left hamstring strain)
  • Brice Sensabaugh (G League assignment)

What to Watch For

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves Potentially Without Anthony Edwards

After a scary fall during the third quarter of the Wolves’ Tuesday win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Edwards has been listed as doubtful with a right hip pointer.

Without Edwards, as well as Jaden McDaniels who continues to recover from his ankle sprain, the Wolves will be a bit short-handed and will need to look to other areas to generate offense.

The simplest place the Wolves could look is Karl-Anthony Towns, who finished last game with only 13 points on just eight shots. KAT will look to have a bounce-back game against a Jazz front-court that does not have an obvious defensive matchup to slow him down.

KAT has seen plenty of double-teams already this season and that will most likely continue Thursday night. How Towns handles the double team will play a big role in the success of the Timberwolves offense.


NBA: Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The Jazz Are Both Low on Rest and Shorthanded

Utah won’t have much time to recover from their 105-91 loss on Wednesday to the Memphis Grizzlies as they only have 24 hours until their matchup with the Timberwolves.

Playing games on back-to-back days is tough for any team, but it is extra tough when both games are on the road and the two cities, Memphis and Minneapolis, are over 800 miles apart.

The Jazz energy level will be a key to this game as they will likely be tired from the long late-night flight. If the Wolves can build a big lead early on in the game, the Jazz may be more likely to let go of the rope.

The schedule is not the only obstacle for the Jazz as their best player, Lauri Markkanen, has been ruled out with a left hamstring strain.

The Jazz offense struggled greatly in their last game against Memphis as they only scored 91 points with no player scoring more than 18 points. The Wolves defense has been fantastic all year and this should be a matchup they can dominate of the defensive end.


Utah Jazz v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Another Chance to Beat a Lesser Opponent

Last season, a large reason for the Wolves underachieving season was their inability to beat the bottom-tier teams. They would often play down to the level of their opponent, which ended up costing them many potential wins.

So far this season, that narrative has completely flipped. Against the bottom four teams in the Western Conference, the Wolves are 3-0 with an average margin of victory of 19 points. One of those wins was a 123-95 over this Jazz team back on November 4th.

The Wolves have also done a good job winning against teams short on rest. The Wolves are 4-1 so far this season in games where the other team is playing on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Wolves have also done a good job of beating teams missing their best player including the Miami Heat without Jimmy Butler, the Golden State Warriors without Stephen Curry, the Philadelphia 76ers without Joel Embiid, the Memphis Grizzlies without Ja Morant, and the New Orleans Pelicans twice without Zion Williamson.

The Timberwolves have done a great job playing their game and not worrying about who is or is not playing for the other team. They will look to continue the trend of taking care of business on Thursday night at Target Center.