Timberwolves Sweep Jazz In Utah With Strong Defensive Effort

Apr 24, 2021, 10:45 PM | Updated: Apr 25, 2021, 9:29 am
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)...
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Utah Jazz 101-96, sweeping the NBA’s best home team despite owning the second-worst record in the NBA.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 30 points to lead the Jazz, but the team was outscored 9-3 over the final 3:41 of the game turning a 93-92 lead into a five point home loss.

The Timberwolves were carried by Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell who combined for 70 points to give Minnesota only their 17th win of the season.

Jazz Mistakes Hand Timberwolves The Game

After a 40 point first quarter, the Jazz managed to score just 56 points over the final 36 minutes of the game, blowing a 17 point first-half lead.

The Jazz success on the offensive end came as a result of their hot shooting, knocking down 9-15 threes in the opening period to build their double-digit lead, but allowed Minnesota to climb back into the game when the shots stopped falling.

Over the final three quarters, the Jazz shot just 10-32 from deep, or 31 percent as the Timberwolves ate into the deficit.

As the missed shot piled up, the Jazz became hesitant to shoot, often over dribbling or overpassing which led to an avalanche of turnovers. Minnesota repeatedly jumped in the Jazz passing lanes after shooters would pump fake and drive to the hoop, getting easy takeaways that led to transition baskets for the Timberwolves young scorers.

Minnesota scored 23 points of Jazz turnovers and added 20 points on 11 offensive rebounds to erase the Jazz big first quarter lead.

“If we’re going to give them 40 percent of their points on the offensive glass and off our turnovers, we’re gonna make it hard on ourselves,” Snyder said.

To make matters worse, turnovers and second-chance scoring opportunities rob the Jazz of extra possessions, making it difficult to find an offensive flow.

“It impacts our offense too because it’s difficult for us to run and get into space,” Snyder said. “They’re a long athletic team, so if you’re in the half-court they’re hard to hard to play against.”

The Timberwolves are young, but bring a lot of length between Edwards, Towns, former Jazz guard Ricky Rubio, Jaden McDaniels, and Jarred Vanderbilt. When the Jazz passed up threes throughout the game the Timberwolves superior athleticism swarmed the Jazz and made it difficult to find better shots late in the clock.

Time For Jazz To Panic Or Not?

With 13 games left to play in the regular season and a chance to clinch a spot in the playoffs, the Jazz coming up short against the second-worst team in the NBA is undeniably a concern.

The Jazz pushed to win this game, playing Rudy Gobert for all but eight seconds of the fourth quarter, while all five starters played at least 30 minutes and still came up short against a team that has little to play for.

The inability to flip a switch the way some of the best teams in the league can do at this point in the season may spell trouble as the Jazz attempt to fend off the Phoenix Suns for the top spot in the West.

Additionally, when the Jazz have struggled this season, it’s often been a result of opposing teams beating them on the offensive glass and forcing them into turnovers as they did far too often against Minnesota.

“We have to learn from our mistakes,” Mike Conley said after the game. “We all had our times in the games where we wish we would have made a different decision or given a little bit more effort.”

Decision-making and effort are two controllable areas for the Jazz have to be cleaned up come playoff time or the Jazz could be in for a shorter than expected postseason run.

On the other hand, there are several issues that likely won’t come back to haunt them over the final three weeks of the season and into the playoffs.

First and foremost, they won’t have to face the Timberwolves again. With Minnesota’s ability to spread the floor with Towns on offense, then have him protect the rim on defense, they present a unique challenge to the Jazz who want to keep Gobert in the paint as much as possible.

While Towns steps out to the three-point line to draw Gobert away from the rim, Edwards and Russell were able to repeatedly able to attack the Jazz perimeter defenders getting all the way to the rim for easy lay-ins. Whoever their first-round opponent ends up being, the Jazz are likely going to find a better defensive matchup than they do with Minnesota.

Second, and most importantly, the Jazz should likely have Donovan Mitchell back in the lineup come playoff time. The guard missed his fourth consecutive game for the Jazz and his absence was glaring.

The team lacks isolation scorers which could have helped against the Timberwolves switch-everything defense and cut down on the huge number of turnovers.

“Just knowing that he’s there and you’ve got a guy that you can rely on, it’s big-time for us,” Bogdanovic said of Mitchell’s absence. “No matter if you lose or win, we are really, really missing him.”

The Jazz announced Mitchell would miss another week with his sprained ankle before being re-evaluated next weekend.

Finally, the Jazz might have been on the wrong end of some poor officiating, though it might not have been the fault of the officials at all. Veteran referee Bill Kennedy left the game in the first half due to an injury leaving only two officials to finish what was a physical and sloppy game.

After the game, the Jazz tried to give the officials credit but admitted there might have been some missed calls.

“I’m not an official, it’s not an easy job,” Gobert said. “It’s probably really hard to see that many things at the same time when you lose one of your teammates. I just feel like it affected us in the wrong way tonight.”

The NBA will release its Last Two Minute Report on Sunday and it will tell the full story about whether the Jazz were the wrong end of a few missed calls late in the game.

Every team is susceptible to bad officiating, but having to finish the game with just two officials might have played a bigger role in the Jazz loss than it should have.

The Jazz can exact revenge on the Timberwolves Monday when the two teams face off once again in Minnesota.

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