Tonight the Utah Jazz will host the Minnesota Timberwolves, in a battle of the two worst teams in the Northwest division. For the Jazz this will be their second game of a back to back (lost last night at the Los Angeles Clippers), and the third game in four nights (they whupped the Philadelphia 76ers, thankfully). Utah is playing like we expected them to, fighting hard, being competitive, and taking care of business at home. What's going on with the T-Wolves? Well, they've lost 8 games in a row, and their last win was on December 10th. Utah lost 9 games in a row earlier this season, so we know that the hungriest team can always fight hard enough to win, even against bad odds.
Sadly for the Wolves, they have some really poor odds. This will be their last game of a four game road trip that saw them drop games in Cleveland, Denver, Golden State . . . and while it's not a back to back or third in four, the last game of a long road trip is one where players invariably are partially thinking about the plane ride back home. Compounding their woes are their injuries. Starting guards Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin are both out. And starting center Nikola Pekovic is also out tonight. Yikes. Thankfully, or mercifully, Mo Williams has recently come back, giving their point guard spot a little more depth. Yes, the Jazz will be without starting guard Alec Burks, but missing three starters is worse than missing one.
So who is left for Minny? They have an interesting group of young players in Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, and Andrew Wiggins. (And Anthony Bennett and Glenn Robinson too) Thaddeus Young and Chase Budinger add some veteran depth along with #MOLO. Last season Trey Burke played well enough to make the Dieng / Muhammad trade look like a farce. This season many people's opinions have changed.
I like the Timberwolves. They have a good group of young guys who need to just play more, learn more, and grow up together in the NBA. I don't think they are very good at winning this year; but by the same token, I don't think our squad is either.
For me I think it's going to be an issue for Minny to battle against Utah in the paint, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Rudy Gobert, and Trevor Booker should give them all a lot of trouble. Gordon Hayward is the best player on the floor for both teams, and even if LaVine is super athletic, and Wiggins is a future HOFer (maybe?), it's not going to be enough to beat the Jazz tonight.
Fearful prediction: Shabazz goes for 30
Fantastic prediction: #MOLO will go #MOLO, and well, that will make life a little easier for the Jazz.