With the room for error shrinking by the second, the Utah Jazz need to make sure to win games against teams that they are supposed to beat. Exhibit A: The Minnesota Timberwolves.
The T’Wolves bested the Jazz over the weekend behind good performances by their two young forwards, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley. The dynamic duo scored 24 and 23 respectively as Minnesota won their first divisional game in over 15 months. Tonight, though, the Jazz cannot allow for a repeat performance if they want any chance of sneaking into the 8th spot in the Western Conference before the regular season comes to an end. The Jazz have an extremely difficult schedule coming up, so this is as must-win as they come.
In order for the Jazz to be successful tonight there are 3 things that need to happen. Here they are:
Al Jefferson needs to play like the beast that he is – In their meeting with the Wolves on Friday night, Jefferson had his worst offensive performance in quite some time. He failed to score in double-digits, and he shot an uncharacteristically bad 4-13 from the field. There’s a chance that playing in Minnesota was difficult for Big Al after being dealt from there in the offseason. However when you see his performance in Minnesota back in December, you can dismiss that notion. In that December game Jefferson scored 23 points on 10-17 shooting from the field, while also snatching a team-high 9 boards. In my opinion, Jefferson’s “off game” on Friday night was just a blip on the radar screen and nothing to be concerned about. I fully expect Big Al to bring it tonight by carrying the Jazz on offense.
Either Beasley or Love needs to be limited – It’s no secret how well Kevin Love has been playing this season. This guy is a double-double machine and is Minnesota’s “Top Wolf.” Although this is true, Minnesota has a guy in Michael Beasley who has come into his own this season and also poses a threat to their opponents. This was clear on Friday night when he scored 23 against the Jazz and was just as difficult as Love to stop. With the two forwards being so good, it would be greedy to ask the Jazz to shut them both down. But to ask the Jazz to limit one of them would be fair and necessary if the Jazz want to come away with a victory. If you ask me, their best bet would be to focus on shutting down Beasley. Love has shown more consistency this season and would be tougher to slow down. But hey, if they can shut down Love, by all means go for it.
Devin Harris has to outplay Luke Ridnour – If the Jazz have any obvious mismatches it would be in the point guard department. Devin Harris has the ability to totally own Luke Ridnour, and it is imperative that he takes advantage of that. One thing that needs to be mentioned, though, is that Devin Harris hurt his hamstring the other night against Philly. He will be playing in the game tonight, but he might not be playing at 100%. Hopefully the hamstring isn’t much of a factor and Harris can take Ridnour to school. If he can’t do that, it is going to make Utah’s chances of winning go down considerably.