Wolves @ Jazz Gameday

Jonah Ballow
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Wolves @ Jazz 8:00 PM - Energy Solutions Arena
Where to Watch: My29
Where to Listen: 1130 KFAN AM

*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 1130 AM.

Scouting Report:
Big Picture
On December 22, Big Al Jefferson returned to Minneapolis for his first meeting against the Wolves in a Jazz uniform. Utah and Jefferson escaped the Target Center with a 112-107 victory behind 25 points from Deron Williams. This pre-Christmas matchup improved the Jazz to 21-9 and Jerry Sloan’s bunch looked like a true Western Conference contender. Over the last 10 games, Utah has suffered through a 3-7 record, including six straight losses. The most troubling aspect to the recent slide is the struggles against Washington, New Jersey, and Philadelphia five days ago. Five of their last six games were on the road, which certainly did not help to reverse a difficult patch in the Jazz season. Utah remains in the top eight of the Western Conference standings with a 27-19 overall mark heading into the matchup against the Wolves tonight.

Last Time Out
Williams posted 39 points but the Jazz could not overcome the league’s top team on Wednesday night, suffering a 112-105 loss to San Antonio.

Kevin Durant scored a career-high 47 points in the 118-117 overtime victory over the Wolves. Wednesday’s loss dropped Minnesota to 10-35 this year and 0-3 against the Thunder in 2010-11.

The Numbers Game
The Wolves are displaying their best distribution of the rock in their previous two outings. On Monday, Minnesota dished out a season-high 30 assists before posting 26 in Wednesday’s contest.

Match-up to Watch
Luke Ridnour vs. Deron Williams
The emergence of Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, and Russell Westbrook have some fans overseeing the brilliance of Williams at the point guard spot. Fresh off a 37-point performance against San Antonio, Williams has continued his stellar play despite the issues from an overall team standpoint. He is averaging 21.9 points and 9.4 assists per game while reaching the free throw line seven times each appearance on the floor. In the first meeting in Minnesota, Williams scored 14 of his 25 points at the charity stripe, which helped the point guard impact the outcome of the game during a poor 6-for-19 shooting night. On the other end, Ridnour is showing more aggression on the offensive end of the floor. He will not only have to push Williams in transition but also slow down one of the strongest point guards in the league.

What to Look For
Sloan attempted to shake up the lineup two games ago by starting rookie Gordon Hayward in place of veteran Andrei Kirilenko. The move was unsuccessful as the losing skid extended to six games and Sloan reverted back to the original five with Kirilenko starting at small forward. Speaking of the small forward position, Michael Beasley will play a major role in the outcome of tonight’s contest. Beasley played 40 minutes on Wednesday night, the most since January 5 and with 30 points, he seemed to find the offensive firepower that dropped off due his ankle injury.

Expect a highly motivated Jazz squad tonight as the team searches for answers before the season spirals out of control. Utah will also have to deal with potential injury issues to its star players. Williams underwent an MRI exam for a hyperextended wrist yesterday and Paul Millsap suffered a severely bruised right thumb in the loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Jonah on Twitter.