Timberwolves-Jazz Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 01, 2013
If the Minnesota Timberwolves are to end their recent road woes, they'll have to do so without Ricky Rubio. A back injury will prevent Rubio from traveling on the team's two-game trip that begins Wednesday night as they try to send the struggling Utah Jazz to a fourth straight defeat. The second-year point guard is dealing with back spasms, making for a disappointing setback after recently returning from an ACL tear he suffered March 9. Rubio, who sat out Saturday's 111-107 victory over Phoenix, also will miss Thursday's contest at Denver. Minnesota (14-13) has lost three straight away from home. "We know we've got a lot of tough games on the road coming up," said Kevin Love, who has hit just 31.8 percent from the field in his last six road games. Love is shooting only 35.8 percent overall this season - he hasn't shot less than 44.8 percent in his career - and improving on that mark Wednesday may be difficult. He hit 29.3 percent from the field while going 3 for 17 from 3-point range in three games versus Utah last season. "Everybody's been telling me to keep shooting those shots because it's going to come, and I do believe it will. You've just got to keep working, and that provides good things," Love, who said he at times feels the effects from breaking his right hand during a preseason workout, told the team's official website. "Some days it feels good and some days it's not so good. Hopefully the new year will bring good things for me and this team.'' The Timberwolves had shot 41.2 percent from the field while dropping four of five overall before shooting 50.6 percent Saturday and getting 28 points and 11 rebounds from Nikola Pekovic. "These previous few games, we were just struggling with the fourth quarter and these last few minutes, so we're kind of making some little mistakes," said Pekovic, who is averaging 22.3 points and 11.5 rebounds over his last four road contests. He'll look to help Minnesota avoid a sixth straight defeat at Utah (15-17), which has dropped seven of nine after falling 107-96 at the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday despite 30 points from Al Jefferson. The Jazz also fell 116-114 to the Clippers on Friday for their third straight home defeat after beginning the season 9-1 at EnergySolutions Arena. "We haven't been playing our best basketball the last few games,'' coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We're playing hard, but we've got to be a little smarter and not make the kind of mistakes we made down the stretch.'' The Jazz, though, are averaging 113.6 points during their home winning streak against the Timberwolves. Jefferson is averaging 16.3 points and 11.3 rebounds in seven games versus his former team since being acquired from Minnesota. Paul Millsap is averaging 24.3 points in his last four against the Timberwolves, though he's scoring only 11.8 per contest while shooting 40.7 percent over his last six after going 2 for 7 with nine points Sunday. Gordon Hayward scored 26 points to help overcome 25 and 16 rebounds from Love in Utah's 111-105 overtime victory March 15 in the most recent meeting.
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