clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Game Preview #58: Wolves at Jazz

There are plenty of storylines to keep in mind as the Timberwolves trudge into Salt Lake City.

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

Game Info

Injury Report



  • Jordan McLaughlin (left calf strain injury management)


  • Kyle Anderson (back spasms)
  • Rudy Gobert (right groin soreness)
  • Austin Rivers (league suspension)
  • D’Angelo Russell (trade pending)
  • Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf strain)



  • Malik Beasley (trade pending)
  • Mike Conley (trade pending)
  • Johnny Juzang (G-League Two-Way)
  • Micah Potter (G-League Two-Way)
  • Jarred Vanderbilt (trade pending)

What To Watch

Bouncing back

The Timberwolves, of course, got slapped up so badly by the Nuggets last night that D’Angelo Russell got himself ejected midway through the third quarter to go watch LeBron James make history rather than stick around for the remainder of a 146-112 loss. Coming back to play less than 24 hours after getting shellacked like that is no easy proposition.

The Jazz are licking their own wounds, though. First, a flat first quarter doomed them against the Hawks and snapped a three-game home winning streak Friday. Then, they got handled at home by a Mavericks team without Luka Doncic Monday, the first time he scored fewer than 20 points in the previous 21 games.

Both teams will be desperate to get back on the right foot, and desperate basketball is usually competitive basketball.

What could have been

Tuesday was a good day for Utah rookie center Walker Kessler, who was picked by former Jazz star Deron Williams for his Rising Stars team at All-Star Weekend. For some Wolves fans, it was probably not a good day to be reminded again of Kessler’s fast start in the NBA.

Kessler’s precociousness has become a bit of a meme in discussion around the Wolves given that he was part of the massive package they gave up for Rudy Gobert. The peak came when Gobert departed the teams’ Jan. 16 matchup five minutes in with a groin injury, and Kessler lit Minnesota up for 20 points and 21 rebounds while shooting 9-of-13. That doesn’t even capture his rim-protection, the biggest reason he has taken over as a starter for the last 12 games.

We’ll see if Kessler once again makes Minnesota rue dealing him.

Battle for positioning in the West

As you might have heard, the Western Conference is a bit jumbled. Only 3.5 games separate the fourth-place Clippers and 12th-place Blazers, and the Wolves and Jazz are two teams in the middle of that mess. This is their final meeting of the season (Utah holds a 2-1 edge thus far), which makes this matchup all the more crucial.

Minnesota has 25 games left and Utah has 27; both teams have 13 left against teams still jockeying for playoff seeding in the West. Basically every other night out will feel like a do-or-die proposition for both these teams and their opponents. Don’t be surprised if this one carries a playoff-level intensity.

Who can get the most stops?

The Jazz may have slowed down their winning rate from the shocking first month of the season, but they still have an elite offense; Utah ranks third in the league with a 116.6 offensive rating.

Minnesota has played 13 games this season against the teams with top-five offenses (Denver, Sacramento, Utah, Boston and Portland) and have gone 5-8. The Wolves average 117.8 points per game across these contests, which would rank third in the league for the season. The problem is that their 11th-ranked defense allows 119.6 points per game, which would be the league’s best offense on a per game basis. That is why the Wolves are 5-8 in such contests.

Just as the Wolves have shown they can bleed points to the best opposing attacks, they’ve displayed the ability to match them basket for basket. If Minnesota’s previous matchups against top offenses are any indication, this one will be a barn-burner, too. It may just take a few stops here and there to make the difference.

The Wolves play two more road games against teams in the thick of the Western Conference race against the Grizzlies and Mavericks on Friday and Monday, respectively. Then, they wrap up with a home game against the Wizards before the All-Star Break.