The Utah Jazz play tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves. This is the last game of a four three game road trip (Game 1 loss to San Antonio Spurs, Game 2 win against Detroit Pistons), the second night of a back to back, and the third game in four nights. Hopefully for the Jazz, they don't have one foot on the plane already because they have business to attend to tonight with the Wolves. Minnesota, who played and lost last night to the Toronto Raptors, are also on the second night of a back to back, and the third game in four nights. These two work weary teams are both off until Tuesday, when they play each other again, this time in Utah.
The Wolves are a Western Conference playoff aspirant, and sadly played at #11 in the conference right now. In their last 10 games they are only 4-6 and really need to start winning if they are going to reach their goal. They are currently 2 games back from the 9th seed team (the Memphis Grizzlies), and Memphis themselves are 2 games back from the 8th seed (the Phoenix Suns).
As all things Wolves it has to start with their head coach Rick Adelman. The future Hall of Famer (really, he has 1020 regular season wins and a 58.4 winning %, while also having coached 157 playoff games, with a 79-78 split) has his guys looking for the playoffs while playing a disciplined game. Minnesota rarely turns the ball over (#2 in TOV%), while at the same time being absolute ball hawks on the other end (#2 in forcing TOV%). They are known for their offense (#2 in PPG, #7 in Off RTG), and play at the second fastest pace in the league this year (97.4 possessions per game). But they have a Top 10 defense that is based upon the two fundamentals of not fouling, pressuring the ball handler, and grabbing rebounds. I said earlier they are #2 in TOV%, they are #1 in FT/FGA ratio (you don't go to the line on them), and they are #9 in DRB% -- thanks to a team effort, it's not just Love and Pekovic. Their one weakness (probably due to not fouling) is that no team shoots a better eFG% against them. They'll rather give up a sure shot than send you to the line.
On offense they have a lot of things going for them, after all they are the #2 best scoring team in the league. They take a lot of threes, they are great at the FT line, and they dominate the offensive glass. Compounding the problem they get to the FT line like crazy. And again, like I said earlier, they rarely turn the ball over. Three of their four offensive factors are ranked in the NBA's Top 5: TOV%, ORB%, and FT/FGA ratio. Their one problem, which mirrors their defense, is eFG%. They are #26 in the NBA here.
Minnesota, if nothing else, is an amazing experiment to watch because they do the same things right and wrong on offense as they do on defense. To be that precise leads me to believe that this is called strategy, and Xs and Os. Which isn't surprising, because Adelman is, again, a Hall of Famer to be.
|8||Luc Mbah a Moute||4||3||18||16.2||3.7||3.1||0.4||0.9||0.4||0.5||0.1||8.0||12.1%||3.9%||10.2%|
Without much pomp and circumstance we see that the completely healthy Wolves are propped up by a great inside tandem, led by the amazing Love. They aren't without solid guards too -- Rubio, JJ, and the not listed Alexey Shved are all very talented. But seriously, Love is amazing. Rubio is under the radar. If anything, their wings are suspect, but they just got Jazz-killer K-Mart on their team. So, sheesh, it's going to be a fun game if they are on their mark.
The Jazz are not as healthy, and once again Hayward is going to miss tonight.
|8||John Lucas III||1||2||30||16.1||4.4||1.0||1.2||0.6||2.0||0.4||0.0||5.6||17.1%||11.9%||3.7%|
We're going to need our team to step up again after a great win against the Detroit Pistons. Marvin and Richard had great games despite the obvious size and apparent talent disparity when they out dueled Josh Smith and Greg Monroe. It is unfair to expect them to do it again on the second night of a back to back, and third game in four nights -- so I hope some other Jazz players step up. One who has is Enes, and I am certain we will see him tonight in bunches. I also look forward to a bounce back game for Alec. Alec had 6 points (off of 2 shots) last night. Yes he had a solid game with 5 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and was a +16 in +/- . . . but I think we all agree that needs to be a scorer more regularly with Hayward out. You can't set up the expectations that you're going to get 30 points every night from Marvin and Richard. It's unfair to them. I'd love it if it did happen though.
The main man tonight is going to be Trey Burke. Fresh off a 20-12-3-2-1 game the Rookie of the Year candidate will test his mettle against one of the best point guards in the game: Rubio.
It's going to be a fun game. They are at home, and we are only 6-16 on the road. They are 11-8 at home. They have the better coach. The better team. And on paper, the better players. Their offense and defense is Top 10, and we, well, we're working on it. As last night's win in Detroit shows: no matter what, you still have to play the game.
For the record, the Jazz are 68-32 against Minny All-time, and a proficient 29-21 in their building. Utah can win tonight and go home happy after a 2-1 road trip. Kevin Love and the Wolves will try to send us home in a sour mood.