Mitchell Returns With 39 In Jazz Win Over Wolves

Dec 31, 2021, 10:09 PM | Updated: 10:15 pm
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobery blocks a shot from Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (Photo by Ch...
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobery blocks a shot from Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Donovan Mitchell scored a season-high 39 points in his return from a two-game absence and the Utah Jazz beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 120-108.

The Timberwolves erased a 13 half time deficit and led the Jazz 87-86 heading into the final quarter.

However, the Jazz used a 22-0 run early in the fourth to rebuild their double-digit lead and beat the Timberwolves for the third time in December.

Butler And Forrest Play Well

With neither Conley nor Ingles in the lineup, Snyder had to play two of his younger guards in Trent Forrest and Jared Butler.

Butler has been a fixture in the rotation of late averaging a few minutes a game to give Conley an extended break in the second quarter, even when he is available.

After getting minutes early in the season, Butler has been related to cleanup duty late in games when the Jazz have blowout leads.

Against the Timberwolves, both young guards played reasonably well.

Forrest had four points, three rebounds, and three assists in 20 minutes while Butler added three points and one steal in seven minutes.

“I’m very happy with Trent Forrest and what he did tonight,” Mitchell said after the game.

What was most obviously watching both players was how much easier the game looked when they had a chance to both establish a rhythm and play with four veterans, rather than players who are also fighting for minutes at the end of the bench.

Forrest looked comfortable running the team, especially in transition where he showed off good instincts with his passing and even attacked the basket in the half court on a few occasions, but was critical of his performance after the game.

“I would say [I played] well until I got scored on three times in a row,” Forrest said.

Butler meanwhile was a far more willing passer when playing with the Jazz starters, a changeup from his usual routine of dribbling to find his rhythm.

There’s no indication that Conley is going to start playing on both ends of back-to-back games, and with Ingles early-season struggles finding additional rest for him occasionally may be advantageous as the season stretches on.

If both Forrest and Butler can continue to offer solid minutes in spot opportunities, they could be an asset throughout the season.

A Familiar Unfamiliarity

This was the third time the Jazz and Timberwolves had faced off in December, with their first game coming on December 8, and their second played on December 23.

Generally, when two teams face off three times in just over three weeks, there’s a great deal of familiarity with one another, but with the everchanging rosters due to the NBA’s current COVID outbreak, the Jazz have seen three very different Timberwolves teams.

On December 8, this was Minnesota’s starting lineup.

G: Patrick Beverley

G: Anthony Edwards

F: Taurean Prince

F: Jarred Vanderbilt

C: Karl-Anthony Towns

The Timberwolves were playing without D’Angelo Russell who had an injured ankle in the Jazz 128-116 win.

Their starting lineup on the 23rd looked like this.

G: D’Angelo Russell

G: Malik Beasley

F: Jaden McDaniels

F: Jake Layman

C: Naz Reid

In game two, the Wolves were without their top two scorers in Towns and Edwards but did have Russell back in the rotation.

Finally, this was their starting lineup tonight.

G: Patrick Beverley

G: Anthony Edwards

F: Malik Beasley

F: Jarred Vanderbilt

C: Naz Reid

Ultimately, five different players started in at least two of the three games, but it was never the same starting five at tip-off.

Snyder discussed what it’s like facing a team that has so much turnover on their roster in just one month.

“Usually when you play someone close together, back-to-back, we talk about it almost being like a playoff format,” Snyder said. “And this time even though the games are closer together,  they’re changing.”

Mix in the fact that the Jazz were playing a different starting lineup with Forrest in to open the game, and that changes the matchup even further.

“The lack of familiarity this time is also due to the fact that we don’t have Mike or Joe playing, so you kind of throw that into the mix,” Snyder said. “It’s not just who you’re preparing for, but it’s who you’re preparing with.”

The Timberwolves are likely to be in the mix for one of the final few seeds in the Western Conference playoff picture this year, but as the Jazz have seen over the last month, the team they are playing now may not resemble who they could face in the playoffs.

They haven’t even looked like the team they played three weeks ago.

Quick Turnaround Against Warriors

The Jazz will have no time to rest after tonight’s matchup against Minnesota. The team has to play Saturday night against the Golden State Warriors who bring the best record in the NBA into Salt Lake City.

The Warriors should mark the team’s toughest test to date as it will mark the first time the Jazz have faced a team with a better winning percentage entering the game.

“They’re the top team in the west right now,” Gobert said of the Warriors, “so it’s cool. It’s a cool challenge for us.”

The Jazz beat the Milwaukee Bucks earlier in the season who own the third-best record in the East but were playing without Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, and Brook Lopez.

Chicago owns the best record of any team the Jazz have faced this season sitting in the second seed in the East but had one loss before facing the previously unbeaten Jazz.

The fourth seeds in both conferences are a combined 3-0 against the Jazz this season with the Miami Heat sweeping the season series and the Memphis Grizzlies winning in Utah in late November.

While the Jazz will be on a quick turnaround, the Warriors will have extended rest after their meeting with the Denver Nuggets was suspended on Thursday.

Conley should be back in the lineup, but Ingles available remains a question mark, as does Hassan Whiteside’s after leaving in the first half of Friday’s game with concussion-like symptoms.

That puts the Jazz in a tough situation with such a quick turnaround before facing the best team in the NBA. Even before the meeting, Snyder hinted the Jazz were more focused on the game this season rather than any particular one-off.

“The regular season is always hopefully a chance to prepare for the playoffs but we’ve had some with some new guys — Rudy Gay, and Hassan, and Trent playing — we’re trying to find a rhythm with those guys.”

The Jazz have won six straight games and 14 of their last 16 while Golden State is in the midst of their worst stretch of the season having gone 10-5 in their last 15 games.

  • Utah Jazz Scoreboard

  • Utah Jazz Team Leaders

  • Utah Jazz Standings

Utah Jazz

Donovan Mitchell - Utah Jazz vs. Memphis Grizzlies...
Ben Anderson

Donovan Mitchell, Dillon Brooks Ejected After Fight

Former Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks nearly came to blows in Cleveland Thursday night. 
1 day ago
Ben Anderson

Lauri Markkanen Named To First All-Star Team

Lauri Markkanen will represent the Utah Jazz in front of a home crowd after being selected to his first All-Star team.
1 day ago
Ben Anderson

Jordan Clarkson Takes Nasty Fall In Utah Snow

It's safe to say Jordan Clarkson is an official Utahn after taking a nasty fall in the winter snow in a video posted on Instagram.
1 day ago
Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen shoots against the Dallas Mavericks...
Ben Anderson

Yes, Lauri Markkanen Will Be An All-Star

The NBA is set to announce the All-Star reserves tonight and Utah Jazz fans should expect Lauri Markkanen to hear his name called.
1 day ago
Utah Jazz Center Walker Kessler goes up for a shot...
Ben Anderson

Jazz Overcome Raptors Rebounds, Kessler Dominates

Walker Kessler had one of his best nights as a pro as the Utah Jazz downed the Toronto Raptors 131-128 in Salt Lake City.
2 days ago
Ben Anderson

Markkanen, Kessler Outduel Raptors In Jazz Win

Walker Kessler and Lari Markkanen had big performances to carry the Utah Jazz to a win over the Toronto Raptors.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.
KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.
Football soccer ball on grass field on stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

Everything You Need to Know to Watch the 2022 World Cup

Find out where and when to watch the upcoming games and final match for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including where to find live updates.
ksl sports logos...
KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Jimmy Buffett

Get your Hawaiian shirts ready.
Iron Maiden tour...
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden returns to Utah in 2022 with The Legacy of the Beast tour.
Mitchell Returns With 39 In Jazz Win Over Wolves