Tonight is another rough night in the wild wild West. The two Midwest division teams, now in the North West division, seek to do battle once again. I don't really have great respect for what the Minnesota Timberwolves have done as a franchise. They are one of the biggest markets in America (but in a cold place), and had to fight for a long time against the expansion team label. They've been around since the 1989-1990 season and have made the playoffs only eight times in 24 years. They have gone out in the first round 7 out of 8 times. When you actually look at their players you kind of get why though. You could argue that things never worked out for the Wolves, and that's sad because the fans there are amazing and deserve a great product.
Terrell Brandon wasn't supposed to get hurt. Stephon Marbury was supposed to be better than Ray Allen. Kevin Garnett was supposed to stay there. Randy Foye was supposed to be a combo guard. Christian Laettner was supposed to be a clutch bigman. Kevin Love wasn't supposed to be either hurt or whining or throwing his teammates under the bus. There's always something that happens. And this season is no different in Minny.
The Wolves are 26-28 and the main culprit appears to be injuries. They have only 7 more wins than the Utah Jazz -- who were supposed to be one of the worst teams in the league this season. Of course, two of their 26 wins came against the Jazz. The Jazz lost to them on January 18th 98-72 in their gym, and lost on January 21st 112-97 in ours. For the record the Jazz are 68-33 against the Wolves all-time, and 39-11 in Utah. Tonight's game is in Utah, where our current Jazz are 12-15. The Wolves are only 10-17 on the road, but they are a respectable 5-7 against the NW division. Utah is only 3-8 against our cohorts.
Minny is a very interesting team. They play at the 3rd fastest pace in the NBA, and the Jazz play at the 27th fastest. By the numbers Minny is Top 10 in BOTH offensive rating and defensive rating (9th and 7th respectively), and score the 4th most PPG: 105.5. A product of their high pace gives them a lower Opp PPG value of being 21st in the NBA at 101.6. The contrast that the Jazz are 28th in PPG, 23rd in Off RTG, and 29th in Def RTG. It's our 27th rank in Pace that cheats for us and gives the Jazz the 14th best Opp PPG (14th), of 100.4 ppg.
The numbers don't lie, you just have to know how to read them. They're better on defense than we are, it's just that their pace gives both teams higher scores than ours. If we play our game (which is, uh, a slow pace small ball lineup? has that ever made a winner?) it isn't going to change a damn thing because they are still more efficient than we are.
I guess the rub with these two teams is always going to be "who is available" vs. "who is hurt"? So, for the Jazz the question is Derrick Favors' hip. He didn't play in the last few games and may sit this one out too. Who knows? I don't. For the Wolves guard Kevin Martin is out (has to be evaluated by a specialist before returning to action), center Ronny Turiaf is also out, and center Nikola Pekovic is going to be a game time decision because of his ankle injury.
If the Jazz are missing Favors, but the Wolves are missing two of their top three bigs *and* their starting shooting guard it's kinda not fair. Or, alternatively, it may be very fair as both teams will have the same type of 'talent' on each sides?
I don't know the answer to that either. I'll get an update on Favors and Pekovic later.
Instead we have to look at this game and appreciate it for what it is. I don't know what, but today I woke up just ready to love the Jazz and the opportunity I have to write about them. This season has been a downer, the last four in a row have actually. Or going further back, the last Jazz first round exit with Deron Williams was too. But you can't just dwell on the bad stuff.
You have to remember that happiness can happen on any given night in the NBA. Like that night over a decade ago when the Jazz beat the Wolves in Utah. And all it took was:
- Kevin Garnett getting ejected before halftime,
- Matt Harpring having 30 point game based on fadeaway shots off the bounce from 18 feet,
- Andrei Kirilenko being AK-47 on offense and defense,
- Raul Lopez, Mo Williams, and Raja Bell having good games on the same night,
- and Greg Ostertag finishing with a 12 / 21 / 6 line and the 'dagger' bucket late in the fourth quarter
Watch it all here, and check out the box score here.
Amazing things can happen every night in the NBA. And our Jazz team, on a losing streak and playing the second night of a back to back, and the third night in four games, can be an entertaining team to watch and root for.
If Pek, Martin, and Turiaf are all out we may actually get a chance to win!