November 12, 2017, 8:50 pm
Before heading on this three game road trip it was probably reasonable to expect a 1-2 record and it wouldn’t have been all that bad. Sitting at 0-2 the Wolves can still achieve that, unfortunately they squandered the win that was expected against the Suns and now face a little bit of pressure to save a win-less trip.
Utah was dealt a huge blow on Sunday when doctors announced star center Rudy Gobert was going to miss the next 4-to-6 weeks with a knee injury. Utah is pretty thin up front and Gobert is the main cog of their defense, so this will not be an easy period for them.
The rim protection Gobert provides allows the Utah guards to be more aggressive on the perimeter with close outs or ball-pressure, because they know if they get beaten Gobert is waiting in the paint with help defense. Derrick Favors is not the rim protector he once was, and he was never at Gobert’s level.
Sefolosha stepped into the starting lineup last game with Gobert out, though that was against the undersized Nets team. It remains to be seen if they stick with Sefolohsa or turn to Ekpe Udoh to match the Wolves’ size.
Either way this is going to be tough for the Jazz to recover from. They are a defense-first team and their offense plays a deliberate pace to feed into their defensive schemes. Without Gobert it’s possible they run a little bit more, but it’s not often where teams change their strategy mid-season, especially something that dramatically.
In their last game the team’s paced quickened somewhat (98 possessions, from 96.6 possessions per 48 minutes on the season), but not to a degree that signaled a philosophical change. They were just able to make their baskets pretty easily over a poor defensive Nets’ unit (48 percent from the field, 11 three-pointers).
It remains to be seen how they react and evolve. The Jazz still have a number of talented players on the perimeter, and Favors put up 24 points and 12 rebounds with Gobert out so they are not to be discounted just yet.
For the Wolves they just need to play a clean game no matter who’s on the floor. Towns played well against the Jazz in their last matchup and theoretically he should have an easier time with Favors.
The game may be more high scoring than last time, which was a 100-97 Wolves’ win, but Minnesota has had no problem scoring the ball lately. It’s been the other side that’s remained an issue.
– Towns vs. Favors
– Butler vs. Mitchell
The Jazz will be severely undersized up front against Towns and Gibson. Even if they decide to play small, Favors will have to contend with Towns. This should be a nice opportunity for Towns to get back on track after a poor road trip to this point.
Favors is a bit stronger, but smaller and less agile than Gobert so he faces a different challenge than the last time these teams met. Towns has the size advantage this time and can play more back to the basket as opposed to facing up on the perimeter.
Favors doesn’t get off the floor as well as he use to either, so on defense Towns is going to have to stay on his feet and not bite on his pump fakes. If he forces Favors to play below the rim, Towns should be okay.
Rookie Donovan Mitchell has had an interesting start to the season. He’s been inconsistent, which is expected out of a rookie, but he’s showing flashes of a real talented scorer. Against the Nets he scored 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting. It looks like he’s going to get a few more opportunities at the rim with Gobert out of the paint.
The middle of the floor will open up if the Jazz play small, allowing their perimeter plays to take the ball into the paint more often. Mitchell in particular has been pretty good at the rim, shooting 52 percent. For a rookie guard that is fairly impressive. Butler will have to do his best to keep him on the perimeter where his shooting percentages fall dramatically.
Cole Aldrich (ankle) – ACTIVE
Gorgui Dieng (finger) – OUT
Justin Patton (foot) – OUT
Dante Exum (shoulder) – OUT
Rudy Gobert (knee) – OUT
Joe Johnson (wrist) – OUT
Where to Watch:
9:00 ET/8:00 CT on Fox Sports North