Jazz-Timberwolves Preview

The Associated Press

For a brief moment on draft night last June, Trey Burke appeared to be headed to Minnesota after the Timberwolves took him with the ninth overall pick.

Burke was eventually traded to the Utah Jazz, and on Saturday night he'll travel to Minnesota to face the Timberwolves for the first time in the beginning of this home-and-home set.

Burke comes into the matchup in the midst of the best stretch of a rookie season that started 12 games late due to a broken finger suffered in the preseason. He has recorded double-doubles in each of his past two games and is averaging 18.0 points and 9.3 assists in his past four.

On Friday in Detroit, the former Michigan star finished with 20 points and a season-high 12 assists in Utah's 110-89 victory. The Pistons picked eighth in the draft last summer, passing over the reigning Wooden Award winner.

"It's always in the back of your mind whenever you play against a team that looked past you," Burke said. "Obviously, being a competitor my whole life, I wanted to come out there and really compete against these guys."

He'll now get a chance to face the team that traded him for the No. 14 and 21 overall picks, where the Timberwolves (18-21) wound up taking Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng. Muhammad has spent the majority of his rookie season in the NBA Development League while Dieng has played sparingly.

The Jazz (14-27) are still without their leading scorer, Gordon Hayward, who has missed four straight games because of an injured left hip and is questionable to face Minnesota.

Burke has certainly stepped up in Hayward's absence, as has Enes Kanter. The third-year big man is averaging 17.3 points on 59.6 percent shooting over his last four games, a significant upgrade over his 11.0-point average and 47.1 percent shooting during his first 36 games.

Alec Burks had just six points against Detroit after totaling 54 in his previous two games, and the Jazz could use all the scoring they can get Saturday. Minnesota has averaged 112.9 points in its last eight home games, though it's lost four of those by a combined 11 points.

The Timberwolves have been held under 90 in two of their last three overall after failing to crack that mark just twice in their first 36 games. They missed 15 of 18 3-pointers while falling 94-89 in Toronto on Friday to extend their skid to three.

"We need to win, we need to string together a few in a row," Kevin Love said. ''If we can do that, our confidence will be right back."

Getting Love going would be a good start for Minnesota. He's been held to 18.2 points per game and shot 36.7 percent over his last five contests.

He'll try to bounce back over the next two games against the Jazz - the Timberwolves kick off a four-game road trip in Salt Lake City on Tuesday - but he's had trouble in this series lately. Love has missed Minnesota's last four games versus Utah, but averaged 15.8 points and shot a dreadful 29.2 percent in his previous four against the Jazz.

Utah has won five straight and 11 of 13 in the series, though much of that success was due to the now-departed Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.

Ricky Rubio has scored in single digits in six straight games for the Timberwolves, who are 11-3 when he scores more than 10 points.

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