NBA Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves vs Utah Jazz

Basketball NBA Sports

569  Minnesota Timberwolves   219  + 384

570  Utah Jazz   – 9.5  – 500

The Minnesota Timberwolves look like a team that badly needs Andrew Wiggins on the court.

While nothing official has been announced, the Timberwolves are anticipating that Wiggins will return from a two-game absence due to personal reasons when they visit the Utah Jazz on Monday in the first game of a back-to-back between the teams.

Wiggins has been away attending to a family matter, and Minnesota has been blown out in both games, losing 137-116 to the Washington Wizards on Friday and 125-105 to the Houston Rockets on Saturday.

“One thing I will say is family is family and we are family,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders told reporters. “Andrew has the time that he needs to deal with any personal matters, as everybody within the organization does.”

Wiggins has been enjoying a breakout season after being viewed as an underachiever over his first five NBA seasons.

The former No. 1 overall pick is averaging 25.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists and shooting 47.8 percent from the field in 11 games. Last season, Wiggins averaged 18.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists and shot a career-low 41.2 percent from the floor.

Wiggins has topped 20 points in each of his past seven games, scoring 30 or more in four of them. He is averaging 29.1 points during the stretch.

Wiggins fared well against the Jazz last season by averaging 22.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in four games. Utah won three of the contests.

The Jazz had a four-game winning streak halted on Friday when they fell 107-106 to the Memphis Grizzlies.

The setback came in point guard Mike Conley’s return to Memphis, the city he called home for 12 seasons while starring for the Grizzlies. Conley scored 15 points but was 5 of 19 from the field, including 2 of 8 from 3-point range.

“It was disappointing to lose, obviously,” Conley said afterward. “It was a hard game to play, but it was special. A lot of emotions. Part of you is soaking it all in and the other part of you is trying to focus and stay locked into the game. I’m glad I got it over with. It was an amazing experience. It just would’ve been better if we’d won.”

Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell continued his strong start with 29 points, nine rebounds and five assists. However, he was unable to get off a last-second shot as he was stripped of the ball by Memphis’ Solomon Hill.

Mitchell said there should have been a whistle.

“I got fouled. Really not much else to it,” Mitchell told reporters. “They defended it well, but (he) hit my whole arm.”

Mitchell, who is averaging 25.4 points, has topped 20 points in 10 of Utah’s 12 games, recording 30 or more on three occasions.

Minnesota hopes it can hold Mitchell in check better than it did James Harden, who scored 49 points for the Rockets on Saturday.

It certainly was a volume night for Harden, who took 41 shots (making 16). He was 8 of 22 from 3-point range.

“I’m a no-excuse person,” Saunders said. “Who’s on the court is on the court. But we have to do more things to make teams like that uncomfortable. James Harden is a heck of a player. He’s one of the best scorers you’ll ever see. And he took 41 shots. I thought we made him work for some of them. But some of them, we didn’t.”