The Utah Jazz are trying to scrap their way back into relevance. With a strong 11-game win streak before the all-star break, the Jazz have taken their destiny by the throat and earned a second chance at reaching the playoffs, after a rough first half of the season. While the Jazz hoped for the New Orleans Pelicans to slip in the standings after the DeMarcus Cousins injury, the opposite has happened and the Pelicans are currently on a 7-game win streak of their own, while Anthony Davis is playing out of his mind. Not to worry, there is still hope. The 8-seed Denver Nuggets and 9-seed LA Clippers are vulnerable, both within 2 games of the Jazz.
Another possible entry-point into the postseason is for the Minnesota Timberwolves to fall apart after they lost Jimmy Butler indefinitely to an unfortunate knee injury. This may be wishful thinking, however, as while their seeding will likely slip, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague are probably good enough to keep the team afloat. It would take a spectacular “Shaqtin’” blooper reel for them to fall out of the playoffs with 17 games left in the season. Regardless, a win is a win, and beating a weakened Timberwolves team would only help the Jazz in their quest for the playoffs.
When: Friday, March 2, 2018 • 8:30 p.m. MT
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
Dante Exum - shoulder (indefinite)
Thabo Sefolosha - knee (out for season)
Raul Neto - ankle (day-to-day)
Jimmy Butler - knee (indefinite)
Justin Patton - foot (day-to-day)
What to Watch For:
Slow pace of play, offense, and isolations
Minnesota plays with the 23rd fastest pace in the league, while the Jazz are the 25th. This game is certainly going to fit Utah’s grind-it-out style. While Coach Tom Thibodeau (or as I prefer to call him, Thom Thibodeau) is known for his defensive teams in Chicago, these Timberwolves aren’t particularly good at defense even with the slower pace of play. They rank 24th in the league in Defensive Rating. However, they are the 3rd seed in the Western Conference for a reason. Minnesota is the third team in Offensive Rating behind the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors. It looks like you can play slow and still have an efficient offense after all. Minnesota has plenty of offensive options. Expect players like Andrew Wiggins and Jamal Crawford to be isolating somewhat often as Minnesota’s go-to scorers. Speaking of which...
Most Likely Jazz Killer: Jamal. Freaking. Crawford.
This guy has always seems to have the Utah Jazz’ number. I’m not sure if he caught the Jazz Bear stealing his wife’s shoe and throwing it into the middle of the court, or if one of the lower-bowl hecklers got a little carried away one fateful night many moons ago, but this guy has become a certified Jazz Killer. He may be old, but he must have some salt left from those 2017 playoffs where the Jazz outed his Clippers in a thrilling 7-game series. So let’s not sleep on him. Let’s hope the Jazz play some tight defense and DO NOT go under screens set for him.
All in all, this should be an entertaining game. Andrew Wiggins should be an interesting challenge for Donovan Mitchell, and Rudy Gobert vs Karl-Anthony Towns is the headline matchup. Regardless of the Jimmy Butler injury, Vegas has the Timberwolves as 6.5 point favorites. Depending on which Jazz team shows up, they might be right. Quin Snyder called for the team to have a better “mindset and toughness” (as written about by our Taylor Griffin). If the Jazz come out focused and energized, it will be a much different game than if they play as if they had just rolled out of bed. If you’re in the crowd, be loud and show Jamal Crawford what a real sixth man can do. If you’re at home, be loud as well, that may just put us over the edge in some convoluted way. Most of all, enjoy yourselves. There are only so many games left in this special season, let’s savor what we’ve got left.
Who you got?
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