GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Jazz - April 15, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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End Q4: That's the ballgame, folks. The Wolves fell 96-80 tonight at Target Center as the Jazz, who are now 9-2 in their last 11, took control in the second half and never let go. Derrick Williams led with 18 points, while DC had 12 and Barea had 11. Al Jefferson had 22, while Mo Williams had 15 and Foye had 14. Head back to Timberwolves.com throughout the night for more updates/analysis/videos. UTA 97, MIN 80

Q4 8:37: With just under nine minutes left, the Wolves trail by 11. There's plenty of time for a comeback but they'll need to put together a little bit of a run here soon. On the flip side, Crunch and the Slam Squad are making one last appearance at Target Center, a nice way to end the final quarter of the home season here at Target Center. UTA 77, MIN 66

End Q3: Utah just extended the lead back to 11 to end the quarter thanks in part to 20 from Big Al and 15 more from Mo Williams. D-Will leads the Wolves with 16 and Barea has 11. The Wolves' big strength normally is extending possessions and getting extra opportunities on the glass, but they have just two second chance points in 36 minutes. The difficulty will be getting hot from the outside, but that will go a long way in this game if the Wolves can knock down a couple shots from the perimter. UTa 71, MIN 60

Q3 2:08: A couple quick notes: Once, the Wolves put out their final "Pack Karaoke" edition of the year with the team singing "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston. It was excellent. I put a short excerpt on Twitter @markremme. Second, the Wolves once trailed by 14 this quarter but cut the lead to five. The Jazz are currently trying to extend that lead at the line, but as we near the fourth Minnesota is putting themselves back in position to steal this game. UTA 65, MIN 58

Q3 5:46: Utah opened up the quarter on an 8-2 run to take a 14-point lead, tying their largest of the night, but the Wolves cut it to 10 on a couple of nice hoops by Rubio and D-Will. Williams is headed to the line after this timeout and could cut it to eight. The key remains whoever gets hot from three will have a significant edge. Minnesota is 2-of-13 from deep, while Utah is 1-for-7 (1-for-1 in the third). UTA 57, MIN 47

Halftime: The Jazz ended the half on a 6-0 run and take a 49-41 lead into the third. J.J. Barea is providing a nice spark off the bench; he and D-Will are tied for the team lead in points with 11 each, and they'r eshooting a combined 8-of-14. DC has six points, and Luke Ridnour has four. Ricky has a quiet night with two points and one assist. Big Al has 12 for Utah. THe Jazz are holding a 24-20 points in the paint edge, and neither team is lighting it up from 3-point range (2-for-9 MIN, 0-for-6 UTA). UTA 49, MIN 41

Q2 2:38: Chase Budinger had an excellent defensive play moments ago, breaking up an alley-oop attempt by Mo Williams and forcing a turnover. Up court, J.J. Barea got the ball at the wing and drained his second 3-pointer of the night. He has 11 and is 4-of-7 from the field. UTA 43, MIN 41

Q2 5:49: The Wolves are starting to make a little bit of a dent in the paint. After starting out trailing 8-0 near the hoop, they've outscored the Jazz 18-10 and are making a comeback. They're now trailing 36-30 after Dante Cunningham's nice cut and layup moments ago. He's got six on 3-of-4 shooting tonight. I talked with Jack Sikma about his energy he brings today--something that has shown through all year long. He crashes the boards so well, and he brings a spark off the bench consistently. UTA 38, MIN 30

End Q1: The Wolves are trailing by eight at the end of the first as they battled back from an early 14-point deficit. Derrick Williams is leading all scorers with nine on 3-of-6 shooting, and he's getting it done getting to the line and knocking down all three of his free throws. D-Will just worked nicely off a pick-and-roll from Shved and drove to the hoop for a double-pump, two-handed slam. He picked up the foul in the process. Ridnour and Williams are 5-of-9, but the rest of the Wolves are 3-of-1-of-9. UTA 26, MIN 18

Q1 7:28: Coach Rick Adelman calls a timeout after the Jazz opened up the game on a 14-2 run. All five Jazz starters have scored in the first 4 1/2 minutes, while the Wolves haven't recorded a field goal yet. The lone two points came off of Ricky Rubio free throws. Utah already has eight points in the paint. Randy Foye and Paul Millsap each with four to lead all scorers. UTA 14, MIN 2

Starters:

Jazz:
PG-Mo Williams, SG-Randy Foye, SF-Gordon Hayward, PF-Paul Millsap, C-Al Jefferson

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Luke Ridnour, SF-Andrei Kirilenko, PF-Derrick Williams, C-Greg Stiemsma

Pregame 6:45 PM: The Wolves announced Pek is out tonight for the third straight game with a left calf contusion. That's a huge blow for a team trying to contain Al Jefferson, who dropped 40 last time these two teams played last week. Adelman said he didn't know if Pek would be available in the season finale against San Antonio. Tonight, the Wolves will likely start Greg Stiemsma to deal with Big Al in the post.

"Jefferson hurt us last time," Adelman said. "But we're going to have to deal with it. Hopefully he won't be as on as he was the game in Utah."

Adelman said injuries are part of the game, and you can't force player to play. The medical staff and the player know more about it than he does coach, and all you can do is not worry about it and play with the players he has. This year has really ratified that with all the injuries.

Adelman also said he talked with the team about winning tonight and owning a winning home record for the first time since 2005-06.

"We've made a little comeback here, taken some steps and are moving in a positive direction," Adelman said. "That certainly would be one."

Pregame 4:00 PM: Welcome to Target Center for the final regular season home game of the 2012-13 season as Minnesota hosts the Utah Jazz tonight. The Wolves come in having a chance to significantly impact the playoff race, because a Utah loss either tonight or in their regular season finale against the Grizzlies on Wednesday will effectively eliminate them from the postseason. Utah currently trails the Lakers by 1.5 games in the standings, and they need to win out while L.A. needs to lose their final game if the Jazz want to win the chance to face either OKC or San Antonio in the first round.

For the Wolves, another moral victory is on the line tonight. With a win, Minnesota will have its first winning record at home (currently 20-20) since the 2005-06 season. They’ve already reached the 30-win mark for the first time in franchise history during the non-Kevin Garnett era, and being able to solidify a winning home record would be another bench mark in a season riddled by injuries.

The last time these two teams faced each other on Friday, the Wolves took a philosophy of trying force Al Jefferson to be the guy. Big Al will get his points, no doubt, but if no one else on the Jazz is available to hurt the Wolves, Minnesota should be able to keep pace. The strategy almost worked. Minnesota led midway through the fourth quarter despite Jefferson’s 40 points, but in the end the Jazz pulled away for a 107-100 victory.

That loss came without Nikola Pekovic on the floor, as he missed the first of two games with a calf contusion. We don’t know yet if Pek will be available tonight, but his presence certainly would help Minnesota with their Big Al-first philosophy. Without him, center Greg Stiemsma will be forced to try and handle Jefferson in the post.

More to come on this one tonight. Here are some game notes as we get closer to tipoff:

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 32-67, and are 21-28 at home. Utah has won four straight in the series, including the three previous meetings this season.

  • The Wolves are 20-20 at home this season and with a win tonight would finish with a winning home record for the first time since 2005-06 (24-17).

  • The Wolves have forced more turnovers than they've committed in 23 of the last 29 games (three ties). They have a +3.6 turnovers-per-game edge (14.1-17.7) and a +5.3 points off turnovers (20.3-15.0) advantage in that stretch. For the season, the Wolves rank 3rd in turnovers forced at 15.9.

  • Minnesota ranks 5th in the NBA in steals with 8.53 per game. The Wolves tied a team record with 17 steals in the win over Phoenix on Saturday (most recently set at New Jersey on Mar. 24, 2000.)

  • The Wolves are 6th in the NBA in free-throw attempts per game (25.1) and 5th in fewest free-throw attempts allowed per game (20.1).

  • Ricky Rubio is averaging 14.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 2.60 steals over the last 20 games. He ranks 2nd in the NBA with 2.42 steals per game and 7th in assists with 7.5 apg. He has tallied 10+ assists 15 times this season. With a career-high 24 points and 10 assists, 5 rebounds and 5 steals vs. Phoenix on Saturday, Rubio becomes the fourth player in the NBA this year (and just third in Wolves history) to collect 20+ points, 10+ assists, 5+ rebounds and 5+ steals in a game.

  • J.J. Barea is averaging 16.8 points on 53.4% (31-for-58) shooting, including 44.5% (11-for-25) from three-point range, over the last five games. He tallied 20+ points in two of those five games.

  • Nikola Pekovic has been the Wolves' leading scorer in seven of his last eight games, averaging 20.8 points, on 54.2% (58-for-107) shooting, and 9.6 rebounds over that span. He has grabbed an offensive rebound in the last 74 games he's played -- the 2nd longest active streak in the NBA (Kevin Love, 75).

  • Utah is 1.5 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and a loss tonight would eliminate the Jazz from the playoffs. Utah finishes its season Wednesday at Memphis and the Lakers last game is also Wednesday when they play host to Houston. Utah holds the tie-breaker over the Lakers with a 2-1 record in head-to-head matchups.

  • The Jazz ranks 5th in the NBA in blocked shots with 6.34 bpg and 7th in steals with 8.41 spg.

  • Al Jefferson matched his career-high in points with 40 in Utah's win over Minnesota on Friday, the 3rd time he's tallied 40 points in a game. He also established a season-high with six assists in that game. Jefferson has recorded a double-double in the last three games and ranks 9th in the NBA with 36 double-doubles.

  • Mo Williams is averaging 20.0 points and 5.3 assists in the last three games. He has scored 20+ points four times in the last eight games (10 total).



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