Minnesota Timberwolves at Utah Jazz Preview
The Minnesota Timberwolves, who are 7-6 and sit in the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff standings will travel to play the Utah Jazz on Monday night. The Jazz are currently 8-4 and own the fourth seed in the West. Minnesota comes into the matchup with a middling defense and offense. They are no. 17 in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency. The Jazz are starting to click, especially on the defensive end of the court, where they’ve been known to excel. Utah has the no. 2 defense in the league, behind only the Los Angeles Lakers. Their offense has been a completely different story: no. 24 in the league. That’s tough.
The Timberwolves’ last contest was a 125-105 loss to the Houston Rockets who were short-handed. The Wolves played without their second-leading scorer, Andrew Wiggins, who has missed time due to personal reasons. The hope for coach Ryan Saunders is for his team to bounce back and collect a road win, but being undermanned and hoping to pull out a win in Salt Lake City is a hell of a thing to ask.
The Jazz come into this matchup after a tough 107-106 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in Mike Conley’s first game back in Memphis since he was dealt to the Jazz.
Time: 9 PM ET
Arena: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
Channel: FSNTH, ATTSN-RM
Timberwolves: Jordan Bell (Q), Shabazz Napier (Q), Josh Okogie (Q), Andrew Wiggins (Q)
Jazz: Ed Davis (O)
Minnesota Timberwolves Starting Lineup
The Timberwolves’ hopes of staying afloat in the brutal Western Conference took a hit on Saturday after dropping a second straight game. This time it was to Harden and his band of misfits. The Wolves were without Wiggins, but the Rockets played without four of their key players. Harden took matters into his own hands and dropped a game-high 49 points in the contest.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for Minnesota. Jake Layman chipped in 21 points and Robert Covington scored 17 points.
“Who’s on the court is on the court. But we have to do more things to make teams like that uncomfortable,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said.
Letting Harden score a lot of points isn’t indicative of a team playing poor defense, on the other hand, giving up 125 points to a team that is relying on G League call-ups is indicative of terrible defense. The Wolves have been bad on defense–they gave up 137 points to the Wizards in a loss the day before the game against the Rockets, and if their slide on that end continues they’ll be on the outside of the playoff picture once again.
If Wiggins, the man having a personal renaissance, returns to the lineup for this matchup then I give them a decent chance at squeaking out a game in Utah. The enigmatic and polarizing Wiggins has everyone hooked this season; we’re all wondering if this time what we’re seeing from him is the real deal. In 11 games the 6-foot-7 forward is averaging 25.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and a career-high 3.6 assists per game. The assists numbers are what need to be highlighted. Wiggins has always been able to score and his improved rebounding is also encouraging, but the fact that he’s seeing the game at a level we haven’t seen from him at any point in his career tells me he is actually evolving as a player. I need more than 11 games to jump back on “Wiggins Island” but for the moment, his play has been a pleasant surprise.
Utah Jazz Starting Lineup
The Jazz’s loss to the Grizzlies was a tough one. It was an emotional homecoming for Conley who was the face of the franchise during its “Grit n Grind” era.
Ja Morant scored the go-ahead basket for the Grizzlies and Donovan Mitchell had one last chance to win the game with two seconds left, but he was stripped by Solomon Hill.
Mitchell led Utah with 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Rudy Gobert had an impressive double-double: 23 points and 17 rebounds. Conley struggled in his first game back in Memphis, he scored 15 points on 5-for-19 shooting.
Conley has struggled in his early tenure playing for the Utah Jazz. And, well, that’s me being nice about it. He’s one of the main reasons their offense has struggled so much, but he’s one of the main reasons their defense has been elite, and I’m willing to bet he’ll be the reason the Jazz end the season with a top 10 offense. He just needs some time. In 12 games this season Conley is averaging a paltry 14.8 points and 3.9 assists on career-low shooting numbers–35.6 percent from the field. He’s also averaging a career-high in turnovers, with 2.6 per game.
All of these numbers are dreadful, and unusual for such an efficient player, who has a reputation of taking care of the basketball. But we also have to remember, Conley, spent his first 12 years in the league playing in Memphis. The transition to a new system, in a new city, with new teammates after more than decade elsewhere cant be easy. There’s no need to panic with only 10 percent of the season complete. Panic if he still can’t hit a shot consistently at the 50 percent mark.
Key Player Matchups
Andrew Wiggins vs. Donovan Mitchell
This is with the hope that Wiggins suits up and plays. The Wolves might use Okogie on Mitchell as well, but the matchup between Wiggins and Mitchell is for all the League Pass nerds out there. Conley was brought in to help Mitchell, and although the point guard has struggled with his shooting the positive impact on Mitchell and his game has been clear as day. Spida has more freedom with not only the attention Conley draws from defenses but also the attention Bojan Bogdanovic gets. Mitchell has taken another leap this season–he’s averaging 25.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists. He’s doing that all with career shooting numbers (47.9 from the field and 36.8 from the 3-point line).
Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Rudy Gobert
Keep an eye on this one. KAT is pouring in some monster numbers–he’s averaging 26.8 points and 12.1 rebounds with a career-high 65.6 percent true shooting percentage. Gobert is as steady as ever. He’s been the defensive anchor for the second-best defensive team in the league while averaging 13.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. One is a sharpshooting big man and the other is a classic defensive-minded big man. Nice little tidbit: did you know Gobert has never made an all-star game despite making the All-NBA team twice? Crazy right?
Robert Covington vs. Bojan Bogdanovic
This is an underrated matchup. RoCo is one of the best defenders in the league, he averages 1.4 steals and just under a block per game. He is a master at switching between all five positions on the court and recovering whenever he is beat off the dribble. Bogdanovic was brought in during free-agency and he’s providing the scoring punch the Jazz needed on the wing. The 6-foot-8 Bosnian is averaging an impressive 19.8 points per game on 43.7 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Your elite pick for fantasy in this matchup is Karl-Anthony Towns. KAT isn’t cheap, but he’s always a safe pick for monster production. He’s available for $11.6k on FanDuel with projected fantasy points set at 44. For the Jazz, the best option is probably Donovan Mithell. He’s available for $8.6k with his projections set at 38.6.
Andrew Wiggins is a risky pick since there is no guarantee he plays, but he’s available for $8.9k and projected to drop 26.3 fantasy points. A good value pick on the Wolves’ side is Robert Covington. He’s a safe bet for steals blocks and 3-pointers. He’s available for $5.8k on FanDuel with his points projected at 23.8.
Bet on Matchup
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