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Head coach Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz shouts instructrions to his team as they play the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on November 3, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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Quin Snyder Adjustments Lead To Jazz Victory Over Wolves

Head coach Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz shouts instructrions to his team as they play the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on November 3, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota – After falling at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves Monday night, coach Quin Snyder and the Utah Jazz rebounded with a 103-95 win to split the two-game home-and-home series. Both teams won on one another’s home floor. 

Karl-Anthony Towns willed the Timberwolves to victory in Salt Lake City, scoring a game high 29 points and 7-15 shooting from the three point line, but the Jazz were committed to preventing Towns from getting the upper-hand again Wednesday night. Towns made his first basket of the game, a three pointer, but wouldn’t score again until the early minutes of the second half. 

Towns finished shooting 4-7 from the three point line, but attempted just 10 shots in total. 

“A couple of the threes [Towns] hit tonight, he’s so big, and he moves back and he’s hard to guard,’ Snyder said, “Rudy [Gobert] did a really good job.” 

Snyder shifted Gobert further out on the defensive side of the ball, preventing Towns from taking open three point shots that doomed the Jazz in the first meeting, or finding open cutters slashing to the rim. 

In a game derailed by questionable first half foul calls, Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic kept the offense afloat with 16 first half points including six made free throws. 

Bogdanovic would finish the game with a team leading 30 points. It’s the second time Bogdanovic has scored at least 30 points for the Jazz in his 13 appearances.

Andrew Wiggins returned to the lineup for Minnesota, after missing the previous three games due to illness, and a death in the family. Wiggins finished the night with 22 points on 10-24 shooting.

The Jazz appeared content to let Wiggins carry the offensive load, as they focused on limiting effectiveness of Towns and guard Jeff Teague. Despite a one-man seven point run to open the third quarter, Wiggins was largely benign against the Jazz.

Bench Troubles

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Jazz, who have been the second worst offensive team in the NBA in second quarters this season, largely because of inconsistent bench play. They struggled once again in Minnesota. 

The Timberwolves began the second quarter on a 15-2 run, taking a 34-28 lead, before the Jazz could find stable footing. The Jazz answered with 10 unanswered points of their own, and despite losing the quarter 27-22, they maintained a 48-46 lead at the half. 

Much like the second quarter run, the Jazz bench struggled in the second half.

A Bogdanovic three point shot gave the Jazz a 71-61 lead with 3:44 left in the third quarter, but the lead was quickly erased after rarely used Georges Niang subbed into the game for Gobert. The Timberwolves went on an 18-2 run, and led the Jazz 79-73 with 9:23 left in the game. 

The majority of the Jazz starters returned to the floor and answered with a 12-0 run to go up 85-79 with 6:55 remaining, and never relinquished the lead. 

“I thought our guys responded when the game got close,” Snyder said, “I thought Mike [Conley] controlled the game.”

Conley had one of his best outings in a Jazz uniform. The point guard finished with 16 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and took care of the ball. Conley had no turnovers for just the second time in his Jazz career. 

“Mike made two great passes to Bojan. Donovan [Mitchell] made some clutch shots,” reserve Jeff Green said, “It was big for us.” 

Mitchell, who struggled shooting in Monday night’s outing, making just 5-23 attempts, started the game slow, but led the Jazz with 11 fourth quarter points, including two made threes.

The Jazz were 7-11 from the three point line in the fourth quarter, 

Snyder’s Adjustments

For as much as the Jazz players deserve credit for their improved play in their second game against Minnesota, Coach Snyder can’t be overlooked. 

The Jazz lost Monday night’s game in large part due to the terrific two-man game of Towns and Teague, who scored 17 of the Timberwolves final 24 points to put the game away. The two were a combined +17 in Salt Lake City. Towns beat the Jazz not just from the three point line, but with five assists, including setting up Teague for layups or trips to the free-throw line.

The Jazz eliminated the partnership from Towns and Teague in Minnesota, holding the two to a combined 26 points on 7-19 shooting. The Wolves were outscored by a combined 29 points with the two starters on the floor. Towns finished with just one assist. 

The coach’s performance did not go unnoticed. 

“That’s coach Quin,” Green said, “Making adjustments, sticking to the strategies he gave us.”

Snyder focused on finding minutes for Gobert to protect the paint by altering the minutes of Gobert and Green. Gobert is usually substituted out of games for the Jazz with roughly three minutes left in the first quarter, barring foul trouble. In Minnesota, Gobert subbed out at the 5:51 mark of the first, before returning with just over one minute to play.

This allowed Gobert to find minutes on the floor when Towns wasn’t playing, granting Gobert the ability to patrol the paint, rather than chase Towns around the perimeter. Gobert finished the game with five blocked shots.

Minnesota took an impressive 41 three point attempts including 10 corner threes. However, the Timberwolves were just 9-31 on three point attempts above the break for 29%. Monday night, on 31 above the break three point attempts, the Timberwolves shot 41%, The difference was largely due to the Jazz adjustment to sticking closer to above the break shooters. 

The Jazz return to Salt Lake City to host Golden State and New Orleans Friday and Saturday night.