This is what it has come to, Utah Jazz fans, huh? Amar writing a Game Preview? It’s been a while. Fitting, in a way that it’s against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves are incapable of getting their situation handled, and either they have bad injuries, bad schedules, bad players, bad coaches, bad front office members, or just plain bad luck over all these years. They’ve made the playoffs just eight times ever, and advanced out of the first round only in that 2004 NBA Playoffs.
Probably the biggest blow I can think of was losing Flip Saunders - their franchise’s combination of Frank Layden and Jerry Sloan. It’s been an almost unending kick in the pants if you have been a die-hard Wolves fan over their nearly three decades of existence.
One of the largest injustices, in my mind, has been all the years they should have drafted higher but didn’t because they would always get bad bounces in the NBA Lottery. If you are in the lotto, and you aren’t a hot Free Agent destination, you pretty much have to get better through the NBA Draft. And that wasn’t an option for the Wolves as much as it should have been.
In the cases where they would draft a good player, they would sometimes hurt themselves by trading them away. Ray Allen looked great next to Kevin Garnett. They won a title for the Boston Celtics. They should have played with one another in Minnesota though. He’s not the only player who didn’t play for the Wolves. But I’m not going to keep harping on how sad things have been for the Wolves.
This season, though, is another bittersweet year. Zach LaVine played just 47 games this year. The breakout star was presenting a lot of challenges for teams out there. Andrew Wiggins and he give the future Wolves a lot to be happy about. But right now the leader of this pack seems to be Karl-Anthony Towns.
Towns is averaging 25 / 12 / 3 / 1 / 1, while also knocking down a three a game, and shooting .537 / .357 / .832. And he’s 21 years old. Honestly? He could be better than KG when all is said and done.
And tonight we get to see him again go nuts against our team. He’s averaging 20/10 against the Jazz, and shooting almost 50% from three. Rudy Gobert is going to be drawn out of the paint on purpose, unless Snyder puts Derrick Favors / Joe Johnson / Boris Diaw on him from the start.
I would, unless they start posting him up.
But it’s not just a one man team, or a one-on-one game between Towns and Gobert.
The biggest inequality seems to be with Gordon Hayward. Right now with his combination of talents it’s just so hard to cover him. What we’ve seen in the signature wins for this team is Gordon taking and making big shots in the fourth quarter.
Other teams spend the first three really trying to manage Snyder’s offense (we need a smarter name to describe Snyder’s hybrid Mike Krzyzewski / Larry Brown / Gregg Popovich / Doug Collins / Mike Brown / Ettore Messina / Mike Budenholzer system). And Hayward is brought in as the designated closer. And it’s worked almost 50 times this season.
A win tonight gives the Jazz 49. That is, if they can focus on tonight’s game and not overlook the Pesky T-Wolves in favor of the bigger games up ahead against the Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors, and San Antonio Spurs.
Of course, you have to by crazy to overlook a team that spanked your butts by 27 the last time you played them.
- PG: Ricky Rubio vs. Dante Exum
- SG: Brandon Rush vs. Rodney Hood
- SF: Andrew Wiggins vs. Gordon Hayward
- PF: Gorgui Dieng vs. Derrick Favors (?) or Boris Diaw
- C: Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Rudy Gobert
- Kris Dunn vs. Shelvin Mack
- Tyus Jones vs. -injured-
- Shabazz Muhammad vs. Joe Ingles
- Omri Casspi vs. Joe Johnson
- Adreian Payne vs. Joel Bolomboy
- Jordan Hill vs. Trey Lyles
- Cole Aldrich vs. Jeff Withey
Injuries / Absences / Rest:
- PG: George Hill (UTA, Not expected to play), Dante Exum (UTA, Will play), Raul Neto (UTA, Questionable)
- SG: Rodney Hood (UTA, Will play), Zach LaVine (MIN, OUT for season)
- PF: Derrick Favors (UTA, Probable), Nemanja Bjelica (MIN, OUT for season)
- C: Jeff Withey (UTA, Will play), Nikola Pekovic (MIN, OUT for season)
Key Match-up: Towns vs. Gobert
This is really the only thing that matters. If Rudy does his thing the Jazz win. If Towns is giving him trouble the Wolves have a chance.
If the Jazz are getting guys back, it’s going to be very interesting to see what Snyder does with them. The rotation is much shorter right now, and that makes sense. Re-integrating Derrick Favors is going to be something under the microscope for sure. He has missed the last 14 games, and in that time Boris and Joe have held things down at PG. And the team has won 8 of their last 14.
And because the media’s gotta media - if the Jazz stumble they are going to point fingers.
Prediction: Jazz win.
There’s only one outcome at this point in the season. Win. Period.