SALT LAKE CITY – Three nights after the Timberwolves pounded Utah 50-18 in points in the paint and led by as many as 36 points in a blowout victory at Target Center, the two teams met again Tuesday in Salt Lake City.
This time, swingman Gordon Hayward returned after missing five games because of a sore left hip flexor, but the Jazz went without starting center Derrick Favors, who didn’t play because of the same sort of hip flexor injury, except his was on his right side.
Jazz backup Enes Kanter started at center against the Wolves’ Nikola Pekovic, who had his way Saturday with a healthy Utah frontcourt when he went for 27 points and 14 rebounds. Pekovic followed Saturday’s game with an 18-point, nine-rebound night on Tuesday.
Missing Favors was not a good development for a Jazz team that has had discussions about whether Pekovic is the NBA’s strongest man.
“We kind of joke about it in the locker room,” Jazz veteran forward Marvin Williams said. “We can’t think of a guy stronger than this guy. He’s a wide load down there.”
Somebody asked Favors on Tuesday where he ranks Pekovic on the league’s strength continuum.
“Oh, he might be the strongest guy in the league,” Favors said. “It’s hard to push him off the block and me trying to post up against him, he pushes you all the way out to the three-point line. He’s probably the strongest guy in the league to me, as far as strength.”
Wolves reserve guard Alexey Shved has pleaded his case to officials often this season, seeking foul calls when he is in the acting of shooting that never came. On Tuesday, he provided a variation on the theme: After getting whacked under the basket without a whistle in the first quarter, he went to official Kane Fitzgerald at midcourt to lobby and did so by bleeding all over the floor. A gloved three-person crew was called out to clean up. Shved suffered a broken nose on the play and didn’t return.
Hayward returned Tuesday after he had missed five games since delivering a 37-point, 11-rebound, seven-assist performance in a victory over Oklahoma City.
During that time, Hayward received treatment on that hip, lots and lots of it.
“Getting ice and stim and watching SportsCenter over and over and over,” he said, referring to electrical-stimulation treatments. “It’s pretty boring.”
Must be catching …
Hayward was out because he injured his left hip flexor. Favors missed Tuesday’s game because his right hip flexor was tight. Somebody asked Jazz forward Williams if his hip flexors were OK. “Yeah, thankfully,” he said. “But I try to stretch ’em every day.”
Add Jazz point guard Trey Burke to the list of NBA stars who the Timberwolves drafted and then quickly traded away on draft night, much to the eternal regret of many fans.
Burke wore a Wolves cap last June for a fleeting time before somebody removed it from his head and replaced it with a Jazz cap after the teams made a trade that sent the ninth pick Burke for the 14th and 21st picks that became Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what the situation was,” Burke said. “I didn’t work out with Minnesota or have a meeting with them [at the Chicago predraft camp]. It was kind of awkward to me, but once I got traded, it all made sense.”
Three days later and Kevin Love still hadn’t forgotten teammate Dieng’s resounding alley-oop pass that nearly busted the Target Center backboard late in Saturday’s win and very well could end up on the next installment of Shaquille O’Neal’s “Shaqtin’ a Fool” feature on TNT. “We were lucky we’re going on a four-game road trip because they probably had to call league offices and repair the backboard after that one.” Love said.