Following a win over one of the Eastern Conference’s worst teams, the Jazz look to avoid their third straight home loss to Minnesota on Wednesday night.
With the regular season winding down, Utah (43-24) can’t afford many more letdowns as it tries to improve its playoff positioning. The Jazz avoided a third straight defeat Monday, routing Washington 112-89 to move one game ahead of Oklahoma City for the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round.
“We’re not going to take any more teams lightly,” forward Carlos Boozer(notes) told the Jazz’s official Web site. “We did a bad job of that early on in the season where we’d get up for the big games or the tough matchups and not for the teams we’re supposed to beat. We took lessons from that.”
This will be Utah’s first meeting with Minnesota (14-54) since dropping two of three matchups in December. The Timberwolves, who have the West’s worst record, have won two straight in Salt Lake City after losing the previous six.
Minnesota, though, is coming of a 152-114 loss to Phoenix on Tuesday, allowing the Suns to post the highest-scoring game in the league this season. It was also the most points ever allowed in a game by the Wolves, losers of 10 straight and 16 of 17.
“Well, that’s certainly what happens when you don’t play any defense,” Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis said.
Utah, 1 1/2 games ahead of sixth-place Phoenix, will play host to the Suns on Friday.
The Jazz shouldn’t flop again against Minnesota, especially if they play as well as they did against the Wizards. Utah shot 52.4 percent while holding Washington to 36.9.
Utah’s Mehmet Okur(notes) returned after missing a game with back spasms, finishing with 14 points. He hasn’t been as effective as in past seasons, but he’s still averaging 13.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks as an imposing presence at center.
Okur should have an easy time maneuvering in the paint against Minnesota, which has gotten little production in the post, starting former No. 2 overall pick Darko Milicic(notes). A lack of depth at that position has left the Wolves vulnerable defensively—they rank 29th in scoring defense, allowing 107.4 points a contest.
Prior to facing Phoenix, Minnesota had already given up 146 points in a loss to Golden State on Nov. 9. The Wolves have allowed 120 points or more 14 times, losing each game.
Corey Brewer(notes) was one of Minnesota’s few bright spots versus the Suns, posting 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting. The third-year guard was held to 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting over his previous two games.