The Utah Jazz (43-33) currently find themselves in the 7th seed of the Western Conference. Sunday, they’ll enter the Target Center just .5 game back of the Minnesota Timberwolves (44-33), being tied in the loss column but having played one fewer game. If things break right around the NBA today, the Jazz could finish the day in the 4th seed. Most important, though, is for Utah to take care of their own business. In terms of playoff position compared to the Timberwolves, this game couldn’t be bigger. The Jazz have already lost the tiebreaker to Minnesota, with a 1-2 head to head record and a 6-8 division record to the Timberwolves’ 9-4. Falling 1 game back of Minnesota is equivalent to falling 2 games back, so in the hopes of avoiding a first round matchup with the Rockets or Warriors, this is a big one.
When: Sunday, April 1, 2018, 5:00pm MDT
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MIN
TV: AT&T Sports Net - Rocky Mountain
Radio: 1280 AM/97.5 FM The Zone
Ricky Rubio - Hamstring (Questionable)
Thabo Sefolosha - Knee (OUT)
Raul Neto - Wrist (OUT)
Jimmy Butler - Knee (OUT)
Derrick Rose - Ankle (Game-time decision)
Jeff Teague - Knee (Game-time decision)
Cole Aldrich - Illness (Questionable)
What to watch for
Tom Thibodeau’s rotation
Remember when the Jazz’s injury situation was mandating that Quin Snyder play an 8-man rotation to stay competitive? Remember how much we all hated that? Thibodeau does that by choice basically all season. Andrew Wiggins has played more minutes than every player but LeBron James this year at 2,796. Karl-Anthony Towns rates 5th at 2,734. Those two played 43 and 44 minutes Friday in a 1-point win over the Mavericks. Taj Gibson is 12th in total minutes played at 2,579. Jimmy Butler has only played 56 games but he ranks second in the league in minutes per game at 37.1. Perhaps those numbers are related?
For comparison, Donovan Mitchell is 24th in total minutes played this season at 2,445. Joe Ingles comes in at 26th with 2,400. They’re the only Jazz players in the top 50 and only Mitchell ranks in the top 50 of minutes per game at 33.5. Minnesota’s best players are overworked, and it’s starting to show.
In case you need a refresher of what happened last time these teams met, KAT played 20 minutes before being ejected with his second technical foul just before halftime. With the Jazz leading 103-94 with 5:20 remaining, Jeff Teague decided to do this:
Jeff Teague literally bodychecked Ricky Rubio into the Wolves bench pic.twitter.com/TNU1Io18rK— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) March 3, 2018
He was assessed a flagrant 2 and was ejected. Injured teammate Jimmy Butler took to Twitter in defense of his point guard:
haven’t used Twitter in years. But yeah Jeff that’s what I like to see. Rubio getting up quick for no reason.— Jimmy Butler (@JimmyButler) March 3, 2018
We weren’t done yet. With just 45 seconds remaining, Jae Crowder engaged in a shouting match with Tom Thibodeau and was assessed his second technical of the game and tossed. Butler also didn’t stop there. He called out Crowder for the incident that got him ejected down the stretch:
Jae get away from my coach. You don’t want no smoke either— Jimmy Butler (@JimmyButler) March 3, 2018
The Jazz won the game and the Timberwolves left Vivint Smart Home Arena heated. Yesterday, this exchange happened:
When a reporter asked KAT whether there’s still animosity from their last matchup with the Jazz:— Tim Faklis (@timfaklis) March 31, 2018
“What do you think?”
Perhaps if Jeff Teague and/or Ricky Rubio sit this one out, the situation will be diffused a little, but it’s safe to say there’s no love lost between these teams. It’s a situation to keep an eye on.
Most Likely Jazz Killer: Jamal Crawford
Jamal Crawford has a storied history of being a Jazz killer. In 2015-16, he, along with Cole Aldrich, kept the Jazz out of the playoffs in one of the last games of the season, leading the Clippers’ B-team to an overtime win in Utah. Crawford played nearly 49 minutes in that one and put up 30 points. In the second game of the season this year, Crawford scored 17 fourth-quarter points in a 3-point Timberwolves win in Minnesota. He’s one of the most notable microwave-type players in NBA history, and he always seems to heat up against Utah.