by Brandon Quinones
After a few days off, the Utah Jazz return to the court to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Jazz have recently beaten the Thunder, Pacers, Lakers and Rockets. They will be welcoming Minnesota into town. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and have been rejuvenated by the return of D’Angelo Russell. The Jazz will look to capture another victory without Donovan Mitchell. It’s time to take a dive into three keys to the game for the wins coming.
1) Making it rain from downtown
The first key to the game for the Jazz is simple. They need to continue excelling at what they excel at: hitting three-pointers. The Jazz have been one of the best three-point shooting teams in the entire league this season, seeing as they rank first in three-pointers made per game and three-pointers attempted per game. They are also ranked third in three-point percentage.
One of the reasons why they are so successful at hitting outside shots this season is because they have the right personnel for it. They have guys like Mitchell, Conley, O’Neale, Niang, Bogdanovic, Clarkson. Don’t forget Ingles: the best player in three-point percentage in the entire league. There is no shortage of options of guys on this team. They are more than capable of hitting threes. Although the Jazz have already emphasized three-point shooting, it should only be emphasized more going into their matchup against Minnesota.
This is a perfect matchup for the Jazz because the Wolves rank dead last in the league in opponent three-point percentage allowed. A big reason for why Minnesota struggles heavily against perimeter shooting could have to do with the fact that there is a lack of quality defenders on the team. However, the top three players have their calling card on defense. These players are Karl Anthony-Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Anthony Edwards. Knowing this, the Jazz should be aggressive in creating and draining open looks on the perimeter. Furthermore, great ball movement will be important seeing as Minnesota allows the second most assists per game. Expect for the Jazz to come out aggressive offensively in this one and a rainy forecast from beyond the arc in downtown Salt Lake City.
2) Get to the foul line
The Jazz should keep their approach in this one simple and focus on getting efficient looks from behind the arc and getting as many opportunities as possible from the foul line. Knowing that Minnesota struggles defensively, the Jazz should work to expose weaknesses in their defensive alignments to get easy chances from the charity stripe. The Wolves commit the fourth most fouls per game, which means the Jazz need to be aggressive to get those foul calls. By getting to the foul line, it not only gives Utah easy opportunities for points. It also slows down the pace for Minnesota and leaves Utah controlling the pace and flow of the game. While this may sound trivial to the casual fan, it definitely matters when taking into account that the Wolves rank fourth in the league in pace.
Minnesota likes to move down the court quickly in fast break opportunities. A large reason why could pertain to the fact that they create a decent number of turnovers and fast breaks since they average the third most steals per game and are fourth in blocks per game. This is why getting to the foul line could be important in this matchup. By getting to the foul line, the Jazz would slow down the tempo and thus prevent Minnesota from pushing the pace. This is a good strategy since play would stop every time a foul is called.
It always helps if the Jazz can get some of Minnesota’s players in foul trouble and mess up their rotation for the game as a result. Be on the lookout for Utah’s playmakers to generate contact in tomorrow’s game. Gobert should get plenty of opportunities from the line since he loves to grab offensive rebounds.
3) Solid, foul-free defense
While Minnesota has glaring defensive weaknesses, the offense has more room for potential. This is due to the trio of Towns, Russell, and Edwards. It is cause for concern that they are all capable of dropping at least 20 points on any given night. However, if the Jazz play strong defense like they have been all year, they should be able to slow down Minnesota’s offensive firepower.
The Wolves tend to rely on getting a good chunk of their points from the free throw line. They rank eighth in the league in their percentage of points coming off of free throws. The Jazz should focus on playing solid defense without fouling Minnesota to limit easy scoring opportunities from the charity stripe. In doing so, they will force the Wolves into having to make smart decisions with the basketball. Seeing as the Wolves rank 28th in field goal percentage, the Jazz should force them into having to make shots.
By eliminating free throw looks, they will force them into having to be efficient from the field, something they have struggled to do all season. Since the Jazz are third in the league in defensive rating, they should simply continue to keep doing what they have been doing. If they do that and emphasize limiting fouls, the Jazz will win this game.
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