It’s a very confusing time right now for Jazz fans. After going on an extremely painful 4 game losing streak, the Utah Jazz (9-8) blew out the Nuggets and Hawks at home by 25 and 27 points respectively, and holding the latter to just 68 points. They play the Timberwolves tonight coming off of two nice days of rest. The Minnesota Timberwolves (5-11) are coming off of a series of losses of their own, with over only a win over Phoenix in their last five. Zach LaVine has been scoring really well over that stretch, getting 31 against the Warriors, 26 against the Pelicans, and 22 against the Grizzlies. Plus, he did this:
Flashy plays and scoring outbursts aside, Zach LaVine is somehow only the Wolves’ third highest scorer. The Wolves have the beginnings of a pretty great “Timberwolf Triumvirate”: Andrew Wiggins (23.5 PPG), Karl Anthony-Towns (21.1 PPG), and Zach LaVine (19.4 PPG). Unfortunately, the support cast around them is relatively weak: outside of Gorgui Dieng (10.6 PPG), no one else scores above 7 points per game on average. Poor Ricky - he’s only averaging 6.1 points and 6.7 assists this year - and whatever happened to Nikola Pekovic?
Here’s the projected starting matchup:
- George Hill vs. Ricky Rubio
- Rodney Hood vs. Zach LaVine
- Gordon Hayward vs. Andrew Wiggins
- Boris Diaw vs. Gorgui Dieng
- Rudy Gobert vs Karl-Anthony Towns
What about those injuries?
Derrick Favors is still out indefinitely with knee problems, and did not travel with the team. Alec Burks is also still out, and expected to miss the next one or two months. George Hill was battling illness in the game against the Hawks, but he looks to be healthy enough for the Wolves. The Wolves? Outside of Nikola Pekovic, who hasn’t played more than half a season in the last three years, they seem to be perfectly healthy. Lucky for them.
Marquee Matchup: Gordon Hayward vs Andrew Wiggins
The presence of three major threats on the Timberwolves team makes this decision very hard. However, Gordon Hayward will have to really clamp down on Wiggins to ensure that the Jazz win this game. In wins, Wiggins scores a ridiculous 30.6 PPG, compared with 20.3 PPG in losses. If Wiggins can held to below twenty points, the Jazz should have a much easier time.
Bonus matchup: Andrew Wiggins vs Rudy Gobert. Remember this?
Prediction: Jazz Win
Jazz fight in a back and forth battle before grinding it out in the fourth to win 96 to 84. The Jazz’s stifling defense shuts down the Timberwolves’ Big Three but a role player steps up at the right time to keep things close. Rudy blocks Wiggins again, and flexes all over him.