Column: Quick Turnaround, Short Memory For Timberwolves And Jazz

Column: Quick Turnaround, Short Memory For Timberwolves And Jazz

This is not supposed to sound like a playoff-atmosphere column. It’s not. The Wolves are working to get themselves back into the top eight in the West, and the Jazz are likely not going to factor into the postseason hunt in 2013-14.

That being said, we’ve got a rare occurrence about to take place this week that, in some ways, mirrors the type of turnaround and preparation we see in seven-game series.

Let me explain.

Minnesota dominated the Jazz on Saturday night at Target Center, earning a much-needed 98-72 victory over Utah at home after losing three straight and plunging three games under .500 for the first time all season. The Wolves were active, they were communicating on both ends of the floor, and in the postgame locker room they were more jovial than I’ve witness in three years covering the team.

That’s the good news.

Now, the Wolves get an opportunity to showcase their short memories on this win and move on. Minnesota will travel to Utah for a rematch with the Jazz at Energy Solutions Arena on Tuesday night, a three-day turnaround against the same team similar to what you’ll see in the postseason. For the Wolves, It’s important to try and squeeze the momentum out of that last win and leave the victory itself behind.

If they don’t, it will be a much more difficult game than they’d like. Because just like what I’m saying about the Wolves, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin is going to have his Utah squad prepped with that same short-term memory.

“Like many times before, we’re going to forget it tonight because we just have to leave it behind,” center Nikola Pekovic said. “This is such a league where you can’t live a month from now and say we beat them. We’re just going to try to forget, try to play another good game next time when we play them in a few days and, you know, try to beat them again.”

Certainly, there are important things to take away from Saturday night’s win. For one, the Wolves crushed the Jazz up front. They held a 50-18 scoring advantage in the paint, out-rebounded Utah 60-42 (Pekovic and Kevin Love combined for 27 alone), and they held an 18-6 advantage in second-chance points.

Overall, the Wolves held Utah to 28.8 percent shooting—the second lowest field-goal percentage allowed to an opponent in franchise history. They allowed just 23 first-half points, the fewest points allowed in a first half in franchise history and the second fewest in any half allowed in the team’s 25 years. And they held all but one Jazz player—shooting guard Alec Burks—to nine points or fewer.

But the beauty of the NBA is that when you begin your next game, you and your opponent each has zero points and a clean slate. For Utah, that’s what they’re looking forward to.

“We didn’t have the pep to run through our stuff, we didn’t attack the basket like we have been,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We lost in all areas tonight and we need to make sure this is a short term thing.”

When the Wolves depart for Salt Lake City, they will need to recall the way they communicated and rotated defensively, and they’ll need to enter next game knowing they should, once again, have an advantage up front. Getting 27 points from Pekovic and 18 more form Love on a combined 17-of-27 shooting is no slouch.

But they also need to understand that Corbin and his coaching staff will adjust. When you see a team in back-to-back fashion, the memories of what you did and didn’t do are fresh. The Jazz will be ready.

And even though Utah is sitting at 14-28 overall this year and is in the midst of a rebuilding campaign, the Jazz are notoriously difficult to beat at home. Minnesota is 11-39 lifetime at Utah and has lost its last seven games on the road against the Jazz. The last time Minnesota beat Utah in Salt Lake was Dec. 14, 2009—a 110-108 victory.

Given the Wolves’ dominant performance on Saturday—leading at one point by as many as 36—there is good reason to believe Minnesota could end that streak this week. But the team needs to be aware that Tuesday is a new day, and it’s important to come out with the same energy and intensity they did on Saturday night.

“It’s definitely unique, and playing in Utah is no easy feat no matter when you play them or what time of the year you play them,” Love said. “In a rare occasion where it’s kind of a back-to-back, us playing at home and then playing away, you just have to make sure that you—I’m sure they’ll throw some different stuff at us, they’ll watch film and we’ll have to go out and have another good showing. A lot of effort.”

A win would put Minnesota back to within a game of .500 and kick off a difficult West Coast road trip with a win. From Utah, they’ll head to Golden State and Portland, and then go to Chicago before playing their next home game on Jan. 29.

The Wolves had the right mindset, communication and execution on Saturday. They’ll need to hold onto that, but leave Saturday’s results behind. Tuesday is a fresh slate.

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