Jazz Backcourt Continues To Flounder In Loss To Timberwolves

Nov 4, 2023, 9:18 PM | Updated: Nov 6, 2023, 11:21 am

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz road struggles continued as they were handily defeated by the Minnesota Timberwolves 123-95.

Lauri Markkanen scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds but shot just 7-20 from the field.

Anthony Edwards paced the field with 31 points while pulling down eight rebounds and handing out six assists.

With their loss to the Timberwolves, the Jazz are now 0-3 away from home on the season.

Jazz Starting Backcourt Fails Against Timberwolves

Nearly a tenth of the way into the season and it’s blatantly clear the Jazz starting backcourt isn’t working.

Jordan Clarkson’s experience, and terrific play last year were a good reason to start him coming into the season.

And, the Jazz’s preference of pairing Clarkson with Talen Horton-Tucker based on their numbers last season was understandable in concept. But now seven games into the year there’s been no evidence that either player compliments the other, or the rest of the starting lineup.

Both players are prone to overdribbling, though Horton-Tucker is particularly guilty of putting his head down without ever looking for his teammates.

Yes, he’s the Jazz’s leading assist man, but his assists are almost entirely the result of looking for his own shot, only to kick the ball out to the corner after he finds himself without a look of his own in the paint.

Had his shooting numbers improved since last season it might be easier to justify keeping him in a starting role, but they’ve remained below a reasonable expectation.

Clarkson meanwhile seems to be struggling to find the rhythm playing off the ball next to Horton-Tucker. The former Sixth Man of the Year is off to his worst start in a Jazz uniform and appears visually frustrated on the floor.

The Jazz starting backcourt combined for 24 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists against the Timberwolves, but shot just 11-34 from the floor.

“We’re all still learning how to play with each other,” Horton-Tucker said after the loss. “Learning the rotations that we’re playing in and getting used to it, trying to find a rhythm.”

Unfortunately for Jazz coach Will Hardy, there’s no clear pathway to fixing the problem.

Hardy shortened his rotation against the Timberwolves pulling veteran Kris Dunn off the floor entirely, but still got less than inspiring performances from reserves Collin Sexton and Keyonte George.

Sexton recorded seven points, four rebounds, and four assists against the Timberwolves while shooting 1-3 from the floor and committing six turnovers in just 19 minutes.

George scored eight points and dished out four assists while shooting 3-6 from the floor while committing three turnovers in 27 minutes.

“[In] the NBA, the best players have to make changes to fit into where they can play,” Horton-Tucker added, “but it’s early in the season.”

The Jazz have been waiting for a guard to step up and show he deserves to be the top option in the backcourt, but outside of a few one-off performances, nobody has proven they deserve the job.

Next Three Games Will Be Telling For Jazz Season

NBA seasons aren’t determined in the first 10 games of the schedule, but at 2-5, the Jazz are digging themselves a deep hole to try to climb out of, and if they don’t find more success in their next three outings it’s going to be hard to see a pathway to the playoffs.

While the Jazz have had a truly difficult schedule through seven games, Minnesota being no exception, the next three games feature far less intimidating competition.

The Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, and Memphis Grizzlies are a combined 5-14 to open the season, with each team suffering embarrassing losses early in the year.

The Bulls were blown out on the road by the 2-4 Detroit Pistons, the Pacers have fallen to both the Bulls and the Charlotte Hornets, while the Grizzlies are 0-6 to start the season.

Though the Jazz are winless on the road, their next three games present a golden opportunity to gain momentum before returning home where they’ll play three straight in Salt Lake City.

If the Jazz can close the road trip with two or more wins, they can feel good about their record considering the difficulty of the schedule to start the year.

If they win one or fewer, it will raise bigger questions about the direction of the team.

Nightly Awards

The ‘Giannis Antetokounmpo Even Bad Draft Classes Have Stars‘ Award:

This award goes to Anthony Edwards who is quickly developing into one of the 10 best players in the league, despite coming out of the 2020 draft class which many experts called one of the worst in recent memory.

Edwards had his own question marks coming out of college, specifically his interest level night-to-night, and his occasional immature comment.

Now, not only is Edwards one of the top offensive players in the league, he’s already developed into a premiere defender, and the type of two-way guards that win NBA titles.

The 2024 draft class is also considered significantly weaker than most, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find franchise-changing talent at the top.

Jazz Next Broadcast

The Jazz will face the Bulls on Monday at 6 pm MST in Chicago. The game will be televised on KJZZ, streamed on Jazz+, and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Jazz Backcourt Continues To Flounder In Loss To Timberwolves