Jazz-Timberwolves Preview

Trey Burke has done very little to instill any confidence that he's the Utah Jazz's long-term answer at point guard, struggling with his shot all season while occasionally flashing the potential that made him a lottery pick.

Two of his best performances came against the Minnesota Timberwolves - along with one of his absolute worst.

That stinker came just a week ago, and Burke might not have it easy again Monday night in Minneapolis with Ricky Rubio potentially returning for the injury-ravaged Timberwolves.

Burke has the lowest field-goal percentage (36.8) of the 149 players to take at least 500 shots this season, and he's been below 30 percent in a full third of his games while often struggling to get his teammates involved.

Yet the Jazz (32-41) are 13-9 when Burke scores at least 17 points, and the Timberwolves (16-57) have caught the Michigan product on his two most prolific offensive nights of the season. Burke had 26 points in a 100-94 home win Dec. 30, then dropped 28 points in a 101-89 victory at Target Center four days later.

Now coming off the bench, Burke - whose career high of 32 came in Minneapolis last April - might have been better off staying there last Monday. He missed 18 of his 22 field-goal attempts - going 2 of 13 from 3-point range - had five turnovers and took the blame for Utah's 106-104 overtime loss to visiting Minnesota.

"I feel like I kind of let my teammates down," Burke said. "I feel like I shot too many 3s. If I could have got the ball in the paint more, it would have opened more things up. That starts with the point guard. I settled too much."

Utah played that one without Gordon Hayward, and it was missing Derrick Favors due to back spasms Saturday against Oklahoma City. Burke wasn't exactly efficient, shooting 8 for 23, but six of those makes came in the restricted area as he put up 22 points in helping the Jazz snap a four-game losing streak with a 94-89 win.

"Getting in the paint, it opens up things for all of us," Burke said. "It kind of breaks the defense down and allows us to get easy opportunities."

The Timberwolves just so happen to allow the most points in the paint per game (47.8) in the league, but Burke and Dante Exum might have a little bit more resistance on the perimeter if Rubio can go.

Minnesota's point guard has missed six straight and eight of nine with an ankle injury, but Flip Saunders said after Sunday's 110-88 loss at New Orleans he hopes Rubio can return Monday.

Anthony Bennett and Robbie Hummel returned against the Pelicans, but Gorgui Dieng left with a head injury.

"You could see that AB especially was rusty. I thought Robbie did OK," Saunders said. "You just want to try to get some continuity with your guys playing and it's been tough."

Nikola Pekovic, Gary Neal, Kevin Garnett and Kevin Martin remain out, but getting Rubio back could cover up a few warts. The Timberwolves are getting outscored by just 1.6 points per 100 possessions with Rubio as opposed to 11.0 when he's off the floor.

He's missed all three games against Utah this season, but Minnesota won three of the previous four in the series Rubio played behind his 11.5 points and 8.8 assists per game.

Andrew Wiggins, averaging 25.0 points in his last four overall, scored at least 20 in each of the first three against Utah.

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