Tip Off @ 6:00 p.m. MST
Regular Season Series Game 4 of 4 (T-Wolves lead 3-0)
I wrote an article yesterday, and another one this morning that talked about how even though this game has no effect on teams making the playoffs, this game has a huge effect on lottery situations. If the Jazz win, they could possibly drop to fifth worst record. If the Jazz lose, there’s a chance they could move to third worst record. There is a big difference between third and fifth. You can read more about tonight’s situation here.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are wrapping up their season tonight, looking to finish the season at an even .500 record. For Minnesota, that is a pretty big deal. For as many seasons that they have been terrible, to be .500 at season’s end means that things are improving and they are on the right track. Minnesota has also won seven of their last ten overall at home.
The Utah Jazz are looking to wrap up their season on the road, where they haven’t been very good at all. The Jazz are currently 8-32 away from Energy Solutions Arena. The Jazz have typically played poor on the road, but this season more so than others. The last time that these two teams met in Minnesota, the Timberwolves held the Jazz to 72 points and won by 26. In fact, the Timberwolves have taken all three games from the Jazz this season by an average of 19.3 points per game.
Key Matchup: Defending Kevin Love
In the last meeting between these two teams, Kevin Love went off on the Jazz. Love got his first career triple-double, finishing the game with 37 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. Those numbers just add to the success he has against the Jazz. This season, in three games, Love is averaging 24.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game, and is shooting over 50% from the field.
Love also looks to be trying to finish out the season on a strong note. Love is shooting lights out and has averaged 41.5 points in his last two games. If the Jazz are going to have any chance of winning this game, it starts with trying to slow down Love.
The Jazz have been starting the young core of Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter. If they go with that starting lineup tonight, it could be a long night for the Jazz. Favors would have to be pulled away from the basket and guard a stretch four type player. Favors struggles guarding stretch fours. The counter that coach Tyrone Corbin has used with stretch fours, is playing Marvin Williams in that same role. However, Marvin has been out the last three games and could be out again tonight.
As much as that would be a better situation for the Jazz, it hasn’t proven to work in three tries this season already. There really is no answer to stopping Love when he catches fire. However, some double teams might help.
The Jazz are going to say all the right things in the shoot around interviews and in Corbin’s pregame press conference. They are going to come out and say that they are not worried about the draft and ping pong balls, that they are going to go out there and try and win this game. Also, there is a good chance that Corbin throws in his famous quote, “They’re not going to lay down for us.”
As much as that might be the right thing to say, my gut is telling me that the Jazz don’t have much of a chance to win this game. In all three of the previous games, except for their last game in Minnesota, the Jazz put up a fairly good fight in the first half, but Love took control after halftime. In the one game in Minnesota, the Jazz couldn’t get anything going and got blown out.
Most all Jazz fans watching this game will be thinking about ping pong balls, and since the game is on the road instead of at home, it will be easier for fans to cheer for a loss. Love is most likely going to stay hot and the Wolves will finish the season with a .500 record, a win for their franchise.
Prediction: Wolves 110, Jazz 91