With just eight games remaining in their regular season, the playoff chances for the Utah Jazz are still alive. The Jazz are three games behind the Kings for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, but also have two games in hand.
The Jazz (35-39) can finally put a team on the floor that's been somewhat healthy the last 15 games. And it has shown on the win column as well. The Jazz has won three of their last five road games and are definitely ready for more. The Jazz offence, especially shooting has improved dramatically. They are starting to get that old feeling back - the feeling that when they have both AK47 and Carlos Boozer on court, they have a good chance to win.
Minnesota (31-44) continues to struggle and will miss the playoffs for the second straight season. The Wolves lost for the 12th time in their last 17 games Wednesday with a 101-99 defeat to the lousy Hawks. That loss also means that the Wolves playoff hopes are finally, mathematically and officially gone and they can start with their development plan for 2006-07. It means that the Wolves probably start playing the young guys. Why? Because it’s always useful to dedicate more minutes to some less experienced players, when you can. The Wolves can allow this now. Another tricky case here is that the Wolves want to protect their first-round draft pick. As long as they wind up with a draft pick no worse than 10th, they won't have to hand it over to the Clippers this spring. So if coach Casey takes some of the minutes normally reserved for Kevin Garnett (KG played only 31 minutes already in the last Hawks game) and Ricky Davis and play his younger players, the Wolves' chances of finishing with one of the 10 worst records in the NBA should improve.
Tonight’s game no longer means much to the Wolves but it still matters to the Jazz, which still is chasing a playoff spot. The Jazz have most of their guys back healthy, they are determined and have all what it takes to gain a victory against the hosting Wolves. Medium (+) stakes.
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