Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Jazz

Wolves (16-17) vs. Jazz (15-16) - 7 PM Target Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO

*Get your questions on the radio airwaves during halftime! Just tweet questions to @WolvesRadio and listen to the halftime show hosted by John Focke on WCCO 830 AM.

Last week the Timberwolves said one of their goals was to head into the All-Star Break with a .500 record. With a win tonight against Utah, Minnesota can make that happen. The Timberwolves and Jazz square off at 7 p.m. at Target Center in both teams’ final game before the break, and both squads will try to use this game to springboard itself into the second half of the season.

Minnesota is coming off a 103-101 overtime loss against Denver on Monday, which snapped a three-game winning streak. Utah has lost two straight and nine of its last 12 games; most recently, Utah fell to San Antonio 106-102 at home. The Jazz are 3-10 on the road this season and are 1-7 in their last eight games away from EnergySolutions Center. Minnesota is 9-10 at Target Center this season. The Wolves are 20-26 lifetime at Target Center against the Jazz.

Last time out

The last time these Northwest Division opponents met, Utah came away with a 108-98 victory at home on Jan. 21. The Jazz pulled away by outscoring Minnesota 24-17 in the fourth quarter thanks in large part to Paul Millsap’s 26 points and a combined 39-point effort from the Jazz’s bench. C.J. Miles and Al Jefferson scored 18 points each, Raja Bell had 12 and Earl Watson had 10.

For the Wolves, it was one of only two games this season in which Kevin Love played and did not produce a double-double—he finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Ricky Rubio led the way for the Wolves, posting 17 points and adding 11 assists. Wes Johnson had 13 points, Darko Milicic, Luke Ridnour and Wayne Ellington had 10 points each and Derrick Williams finished with 15 points.

Minnesota is still looking for its first Northwest Divisional victory of the season. They’re 0-3 heading into tonight, having lost to Oklahoma City, Utah and Denver. The Jazz are 3-3 in divisional play but come into this game tied with the Wolves for fourth in the Northwest.

Key matchup: Big men down low

Wolves Minute with John Focke

The key to tonight’s game will likely be how Minnesota contains former Wolves center Al Jefferson, who is averaging 19.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this season. This wouldn’t be so questionable had it not been for Nikola Pekovic leaving Monday’s game and not returning due to a sprained right ankle. Pekovic was scheduled to be re-evaluated on Tuesday, and we’ll get an indication of how he’s feeling at this morning’s shootaround. But with Pekovic missing all of the second half against the Nuggets and Milicic not playing in Denver due to a left abdominal strain suffered against the 76ers on Sunday, it’s uncertain for the moment how coach Rick Adelman will approach tonight’s showdown at the center position. Pekovic is officially listed as questionable for tonight.

Containing Paul Millsap

The Wolves caught Utah in the middle of a hot streak last time out, as Utah had won eight of its first 10 games in January when the two teams squared off on Jan. 21. Power forward Paul Millsap was a big part of that stretch; he averaged 18.1 points and 9.4 boards per game in January. But Millsap has cooled down since then and so have the Jazz. Millsap is averaging 13.7 points per game in February and is averaging 2.2 turnovers per game. On the flip side, Kevin Love has eclipsed 30 points four times this month and is averaging 25.4 points, 15.6 rebounds and 41.3 minutes per contest in February. On Monday against Denver, he scored 22 points and added 13 rebounds in the overtime loss. Love has averaged 15.6 points and 11.4 rebounds in 13 games against the Jazz in his career.

Race to 100

Of the Wolves 19 home games this season, they are 9-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 points in a contest. The Jazz enter tonight’s game averaging 97.6 points overall but just 91.6 points away from EnergySolutions Center. In 12 games this month, the Jazz have scored fewer than 100 points eight times. Meanwhile, Minnesota has allowed 100 or more points in six of their 12 games this month—going 1-5 in those contests.

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