It's two teams simply playing out the string on the 2014-15 NBA season as Utah visits Minnesota. At this point the Jazz are 4.5-point favorites on NBA odds with a total of 185.5.
Jazz Showing Some Promise
Utah (32-41) has been very competitive since the All-Star break so maybe the Jazz could turn into a playoff team as soon as next season. They have some good young players, led by French center Rudy Gobert, who looks like a future All-Star and potential Defensive Player of the Year. Utah, which leads the league in defense in allowing just 95.1 points per game, enters off a 94-89 home win over Oklahoma City on Saturday -- which, you never know, could prove a huge loss for the Thunder's playoff hopes although they do have a somewhat comfortable lead for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference. Gobert had 13 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks against OKC. Trey Burke, another one of those young players with promise, had 22 points off the bench.
That was Utah's first game against the Thunder since trading Enes Kanter there at the Feb. 19 deadline. Kanter had ripped the Jazz organization before the game. Jazz rookie Rodney Hood returned to the lineup after missing the past two games with a stomach issue. However, forward Derrick Favors sat out with back spasms. He's questionable for Monday. Favors averages 16.4 points and 8.3 rebounds. If he can't go, and he's not listed as a starter on the team's game notes, then Trevor Booker would get the call and that's a pretty significant downgrade.
The Jazz are 38-33-2 against the spread this season and 28-45 'over/under.'
Wolves Are Injury-Ravaged
Speaking of good young players, Minnesota (16-57) has the guy who almost surely will be the NBA's Rookie of the Year this season in Andrew Wiggins. He is averaging 16.2 points and 4.4 rebounds and is making that Kevin Love trade to Cleveland look pretty good for the Timberwolves. They are going to have another high lottery pick this summer with the NBA's second worst-record. Minnesota probably can't catch New York for the worst mark as the Knicks are 14-60.
The Wolves enter this one off a 110-88 loss in New Orleans, their third straight defeat. Wiggins had 20 points and fellow rookie Zach LaVine 17. Reserve Robbie Hummel returned to the lineup after missing 29 games with a fractured right hand, while Anthony Bennett came back from a right ankle sprain that sidelined him 18 games. Neither did much. Starting center Gorgui Dieng left in the first half after getting get hit in the head. Wolves shooting guard Kevin Martin missed a fourth straight game with a hamstring injury, point guard Ricky Rubio a sixth straight game with an ankle injury, center Nikola Pekovic a 10th consecutive with an ankle problem and Kevin Garnett a 12th in a row with knee soreness/illness. Don't expect any of them back here.
While the Jazz are the NBA's best defensive team, the Timberwolves are its worst, allowing 106.0 points per game. Minnesota is 32-40-1 against the spread and 39-32-2 'over/under' on NBA odds.
Utah leads 2-1. On Dec. 30 in Salt Lake City, the Jazz were 7-point favorites at sportsbooks and won 100-94 behind a career-high 30 points from Shabazz Muhammad. He's now out for the season after finger surgery on Feb. 23. Gordon Hayward scored 11 of his 26 points in the final four minutes as Utah rallied. Wiggins had 21 for Minnesota. Rubio, Pekovic and Martin all missed that one. On Jan. 3 in Minneapolis, the Wolves were 1.5-point favorites but lost 101-89. Burke, who originally was drafted by Minnesota but then quickly traded to Utah on the 2013 draft day, led the Jazz with 28 points, while Gobert had 13 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. Wiggins had 20 for the Wolves in what was their 11th straight defeat. Rubio, Pekovic and Martin missed that one too. On March 23 in Utah, the Wolves were 10-point dogs but won 106-104 in overtime. Wiggins and LaVine combined for 49 points. Minnesota was down five points with 1:02 left in regulation. Gobert had 18 points, 17 rebound and six blocks for the Jazz, but Burke was just 4-for-22 from the field. Hayward missed the game. So did Rubio, Pekovic, Martin and Garnett.
NBA Free Pick: Give the points and go 'under' the total for this NBA pick. The Wolves are 1-4 ATS in their past five at home. Utah has covered five of its past six at Minnesota. The under has hit in five of those.