Feb 12, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) is defended by Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins (5) during the first half at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Utah Jazz (29-24) @ Minnesota Timberwolves (19-30)

Fresh off of a 109-94 win over Oklahoma City, the Utah Jazz (9-18 on the road) visit Target Center for their second meeting of the season against the Wolves. The Jazz outrebounded the Thunder 38-26 with 16 offensive rebounds, while the Thunder shot 56% from the floor, blocked 13 shots, got only 6 points out of Kevin Martin (0-4 from 3) and lost by 15, snapping a 4-game winning streak in which they won each game by at least 20 points.

That game, of course, was in Utah, where the Jazz are 20-6. Some would speculate (h/t to Airete at canishoopus) that, while the Jazz are currently 3rd in fouls per game this year, they haven’t finished outside the top 10 in that category since the ’98-’99 season and have either led the league (7 times) or finished runner-up (twice) in 9 of the last 13 seasons. Translation? Things get ugly when you foul on every possession and things get called differently when you foul at home.

Jazz probable starting lineup:

PG Jamaal Tinsley

SG Randy Foye

SF Marvin Williams

PF Paul Millsap

C Al Jefferson

Gordon Hayward has been out with a shoulder injury since January 26th and he’s likely out until after the All-Star break. Jazz trade bait Alec Burks has received a little burn because of Hayward’s absence. Burks has averaged 25 minutes and 10 points on 46% shooting in the month of February and had 13 on 6-11 and 24 on 7-15 (9-9 fts) in his last 2.

Big Al has been on a roll over his last 5, averaging 21 points and 9 rebounds on 56% shooting. Jefferson’s $15 million and Millsap’s $7.2 million come off the books at the end of the year, and thus have found their names tied to everyone from the Houston Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets needing frontcourt depth. Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors are both awaiting a sizable raise in minutes, whenever a trade should happen.

Wolves probable starting lineup:

PG Ricky Rubio

SG Luke Ridnour

SF Mickael Gelabale

PF Derrick Williams

C Nikola Pekovic

Throw out Ricky’s 3-13 performance against the Spurs and he’s shooting 36 of 75, good for 48% over the last 9 games. (If you don’t like that rosy outlook, if you include it, he drops to 40% over the last 10.) I think I like the rosy outlook, as Rubio’s energy has definitely returned to last year’s levels. Despite his 7 turnovers and 5 fouls against Cleveland, Ricky’s 10 assists and 5 steals tells the two sides of that story.

Right now the beneficiaries of that pushing would seem to be Ridnour, who is on a bit of a run himself, shooting 58% over the last 5, and Gelabale, who is at 58% as well over that same span while reaching double digits over the last 2. This should be Gelabale’s swan song in the starting lineup, as Andrei Kirilenko is aiming for a return post All-Star break.

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Tags: Minnesota Timberwolves Pregame Preview Utah Jazz

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