Timberwolves vs Jazz: The Wolves need a win

Mar 30, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) dunks in the second quarter against the Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves go up against Gordon Hayward and his Utah Jazz on the Wolves home floor on Saturday night.

The Timberwolves are coming off of an embarrassing loss to the 76ers on Tuesday in a that game the Sixers lead by 24 points. Then, a tough road loss to the Wizards in which the Wolves lead by five heading into the fourth quarter.

Put simply, this season is just not going Minnesota’s way. A win against a good team like the Jazz would do a lot for the Wolves’ confidence.

The Jazz have been playing extremely well this season, led lead by Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert. Hayward is showing this season that he is one of the top small forwards in the league, while Gobert is showing off his length and skill-set that goes along with it.

Jazz point guard George Hill has been out since New Year’s Day due to a concussion and will not be playing against the Wolves. Hill has been a big difference maker for the Jazz this season but has only been able to play in 13 games.

The Timberwolves have been blessed with good health for the first time in a long time. This hasn’t shown however, with the Wolves continuing to have issues with consistency this season. Guys can come in the game and play good defense and score the basketball, but then a minute later, they look lost on the floor.

Rudy Gobert playing up against Karl Anthony-Towns and Gorgui Dieng will be exciting to watch. Even Andrew Wiggins and Hayward will be a fun match-up.

And now, to the preview…

Jan 6, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) drives to the basket past Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) in the first quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Timberwolves Preview

Record: 11-25 (6-12 home, 5-13 road)

Starting Lineup

PG – Ricky Rubio (6.9 PPG, 7.1 APG, 4.0 RPG)

SG – Zach LaVine (20.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.0 APG)

SF – Andrew Wiggins (22.3 PPG, 4.2 PPG, 2.3 APG)

PF – Gorgui Dieng (10.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.3 BPG)

C – Karl Anthony-Towns (21.5 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 1.4 BPG)

Key Reserves

The Timberwolves have gotten to a point where, in close games, they only play four players off the bench. These four guys are Nemanja Bjelica, Shabazz Muhammad, Kris Dunn, and Cole Aldrich.

Shabazz and Bjelica have been taking most of the scoring load for the bench. As of now, Bazz is scoring 7.7 points per game and Bjelica is at 6.1 points per game. Yes, it would be nice to have someone on the bench scoring 10-15 points each game, but this is where we’re at for now.

While the scoring totals for the reserves is poor, Shabazz has improved of late. He is now shooting 37 percent from three and 43.4 percent from the field. In the Wolves win against Milwaukee, he had 22 points. Since then he’s consistently scored over ten points a game. Muhammad did not play on Friday at Washington due to an illness and is questionable to play on Saturday night.

Mar 30, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) blocks Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) in the second quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Utah Jazz Preview

Record: 22-15 (12-7 home, 10-8 road)

Starting Lineup

PG – Shelvin Mack (8.8 PPG, 3.1 APG, 2.2 RPG)

SG – Rodney Hood (14.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.0 APG)

SF – Gordon Hayward (22.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.6 APG)

PF – Derrick Favors (8.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.0 BPG)

C – Rudy Gobert (12.5 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 2.6 BPG)

Key Reserves

In his first season with the Jazz, Joe Johnson has been able to contribute, scoring 8.7 points per game on 40.2 percent three-point shooting. Trey Lyles has been pitching in with 8.4 points with 20 minutes per game.

Dante Exum and Boris Diaw both play 20 minutes per game for the Jazz as well, although Utah doesn’t exactly have a deep bench. They have a few guys that can give solid minutes and score a few buckets here and there, but that’s about it.

What’s going to help the Wolves a ton in this game is the absence of George Hill. If the Wolves can take advantage of that, they should get a win.

Nov 28, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) shoots the ball over Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) in the first half at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Three Things to Watch

1. Rudy Gobert’s defense. Rudy Gobert is one of the best rim protectors in the league. At 7’-1”, he is a major issue for offenses. He will be guarding Towns, which could cause big trouble for the Wolves.

Towns is one of the best offensive centers in the league, and a big piece of this game will be how Towns reacts to the defense thrown at him.

2. Gordon Hayward’s performance offensively. Over Gordon Hayward’s career he has averaged only 14 points per game against the Wolves. In the last two games, however, he’s scored 22 and 24 points, respectively. Hayward could make or break this game.

Wiggins needs to be ready to play defense. Hayward is a dangerous scorer and can absolutely take over game. He also has much more experience than Wiggins. Watch to see how Wiggins defends Hayward; if he’s successful it could be a good win for the Wolves.

3. Utah’s slow offense. Utah runs a slow offense where they get off high percentage shots, but don’t get off a lot of them. They currently are 26th in the league in points scored and 29th in assists. As a team, however, they shoot a very high percentage. This could be both good and bad for the Wolves.

The Timberwolves play well against these teams with slow offense. In fact, the Wolves have won their last four games against the Jazz. As long as the Wolves focus in on defense and stop open shots, the Wolves could get a win.

Jan 6, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau yells from the bench against the Washington Wizards in the fourth quarter at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 112-105. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Game Prediction

The Timberwolves desperately need a win, as they’ve lost three in a row and have yet to win a game in the New Year. Hopefully, this is the one.

It will be far from easy, of course, playing against the 22-15 Jazz, but winning a game against a division opponent and stopping this modest losing streak before it snowballs would be significant.

As far as a prediction goes, let’s say the Wolves win by a 98-94 tally.

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