October 20, 2017, 10:37 am
After falling in the season opener to San Antonio, the Timberwolves look to bounce back in their home opener against division-rival the Utah Jazz. This will also be the return of Ricky Rubio to Minnesota after spending his first six seasons with the T-Wolves.
The Wolves lost 107-99 on Wednesday against the Spurs and looked a bit sluggish, especially in the first half. As a team they only shot 43.5 percent and much of it came off of isolation plays or from the pick-and-roll, while scoring only 11 points on the fast break.
Andrew Wiggins was hot from the field on Wednesday, scoring 26 points and nailing four 3-pointers. He was shooting with confidence and pulling up without hesitation, hopefully it carry’s over to tonight’s game.
Look for Jimmy Butler to get more involved tonight than he was in his last game after taking only 12 shots and scoring 12 points. It was a disappointing effort against the Leonard-less Spurs.
Karl-Anthony Towns is going to have his hands full tonight. The Jazz are one of the few teams left in the NBA that roll with a traditional two big-man front court with Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. The battle between Towns and Gobert is going to be particularly interesting.
Utah won their opening game 106-96 at home against the Nuggets. The Jazz tend to favor a slow approach to the game down and play a defensive battle. Utah was 30th in pace last season, and in their last game they caused 22 turnovers but had just four fast break points.
This doesn’t mean they lack offensive fire power though. Gobert is nearly unstoppable if he gets to the rim, and Rubio is adept at finding his big men (as Wolves fans know all about). Favors was injured and had a down year last season, but he looks healthy again and is a big threat on the block.
On the perimeter, the Jazz are attempting to fill the void left by Gordon Hayward. This is no simple task, but Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood are capable scorers, and rookie Donovan Mitchell looked really promising in training camp as an athletic two-way player with some play making skills.
– Towns vs. Gobert
– Teague vs. Rubio
Gobert is the best player on the Jazz, and one of the top defensive centers in the NBA. Gobert’s rim protection will be a huge factor in this game, especially since the T-Wolves are an inside oriented team. Towns will have no easy time generating offense versus Gobert inside, but on the perimeter he may have to hit a few shots to open up the floor to at least keep the defense honest. If Gobert is allowed to stay near the rim all game, it could be a long night for the offense.
For Towns defensively, he has to make sure he puts a body on Gobert at all times to keep him away from offensive rebounds and lob passes. Towns bit on a few fakes on Wednesday night and lost position defensively to Aldridge and Gasol for easy baskets. This isn’t part of Gobert’s game, but could be something to look out for.
Towns also was left ball watching on a defensive position and allowed Aldridge to get an easy put back dunk. That won’t fly against Gobert.
Jeff Teague and Ricky Rubio is an intriguing match up because of the intangible factors at play. Rubio was traded in favor of Teague, who the Wolves signed in free agency. There’s a little bit extra on the line here for Rubio to show they made the wrong choice, or for Teague to prove he is the right guy.
Anthony Brown (coaches decision) – OUT
Justin Patton (foot) – OUT
Dante Exum (Shoulder) – OUT
Where to watch:
8:00 ET/7:00 CT on Fox Sports North (Minnesota) and AT&T Sports Network (Utah)