Jazz-Timberwolves preview

Friday’s game with Minnesota might be the final home game of the 2012-13 season for the Utah Jazz.

Or it could be a springboard into the postseason.

Utah (41-38) will play host to the Timberwolves (29-49) tonight at EnergySolutions Arena.  If the Jazz win, they’ll at least keep pace with the L.A. Lakers in the chase for the playoffs.

And if the Lakers lose their home game with Golden State tonight, it could actually propel the Jazz into a tie for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoff bracket. With the tiebreaker over L.A., that would put the Jazz right where they want to be.

“It’s been fun,” Utah’s Gordon Hayward said. “This is what you play for, to be in a situation like this. There’s some pressure on the line. Games are competitive.”

The Jazz are coming off a 90-80 loss to Oklahoma City on Tuesday. But they remain a solid home team, where they own a 29-11 record at ESA.

Minnesota has been decimated by injuries this season. Going into Friday’s game, the T-Wolves had missed a total of  326 games due to injury or illness. They are missing their best player, 6-10 big man Kevin Love, who suffered a broken hand on Jan. 3 and will miss the remainder of the season.

Love also underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Wednesday.

Minnesota, 10-29 on the road this season, is led by center Nikola Pekovic, who averages 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds.

Former Jazzman Andrei Kirilenko averages 12.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists for the T-Wolves.

Also keep an eye on point guard Ricky Rubio, who averages 10.4 points and 7.5 assists per game. When the T-Wolves visited Utah earlier in the season, the 22-year-old did not play. However, when Utah visited Minnesota in February, he recorded 18 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

“He’s a great playmaker,” Hayward said. “He has a knack for finding guys in positions where they can score. He’s all over the place.”

Counting tonight’s game there are just three games left in the regular season for the Jazz and Lakers.

After tonight, Utah hits the road for a game at Minnesota (on Monday) and at Memphis (on Wednesday).

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About Jim Burton

Jim Burton has worked for the Standard-Examiner since 1991. He has covered everything from the preps to Utah, BYU, Weber State and the Ogden Raptors. Currently he is the Standard's Utah Jazz beatwriter and its sports columnist.
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