BEN ANDERSON

Jazz Fall To Timberwolves In Markkanen’s Return

Mar 18, 2024, 10:30 PM

Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen shoots against the Minnesota Timberwolves...

Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen shoots against the Minnesota Timberwolves (Credit: Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

(Credit: Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz fell to 1-3 on the four-game homestand after losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves 114-104.

Anthony Edwards led the Timberwolves with an electric 32 points, including 25 in the second half.

The Jazz were led by Collin Sexton who scored 24 points in the loss.

Shorthanded Timberwolves Out-Execute Jazz

After opening the game without both Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert out of the lineup, the Timberwolves lost forward Naz Reid to a head injury at halftime, leaving them extremely thin in the frontcourt for the final 24 minutes of the game.

But after committing nine first-half turnovers leading to 13 Jazz points, Minnesota cleaned up their play offensively and didn’t give the ball away at any point in the third and fourth quarters.

“Without Reid, they were playing with a ton of ball handlers on the court and so they really mixed up how they were playing,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said.

Edwards controlled the game for Minnesota in the second half as they quickly erased the Jazz’s six-point halftime lead, outscoring the Jazz 61-45 over the final two quarters.

“Anthony Edwards hit some tough shots in the fourth quarter, which you know, that’s who he is,” Hardy said. “He’s an All-Star.”

Markkanen Returns For Jazz Vs. Timberwolves

Beyond the 23 points and eight rebounds he averages each time he takes the floor, the Jazz have missed Markkanen far more than his raw statistical averages.

Markkanen is not just the best catch-and-shoot player on the roster, he’s the best in the NBA, and as a result, the main focus of every opposing defense.

In his return from a six-game absence, the forward scored 22 points and added 12 rebounds on 8-16 shooting.

“When Lauri runs an action, we’ve seen it all year, the other team really reacts to it and I think that frees up space for the other guys,” Hardy added. “So his impact […] is not just the points that he scored, I think that he’ll give the other guys some space.”

After attempting only 26 threes in Saturday’s matchup, their second-lowest total of the season, the Jazz upped that number to 14 makes on 32 attempts, good for 43 percent.

Markkanen’s teammates also had an easier job with the All-Star back on the court as they combined to shoot 31-68 from the floor and 13-27 from three.

“The thing for his teammates is that everybody gets the next defender down,” Hardy said. “[When] Lauri doesn’t play, the best defender is on somebody that they may not be on when Lauri plays.”

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While Hardy praised the Finnish forward, Markkanen was more critical of his own performance, including six costly turnovers.

“I was rushing a couple of things and obviously, turnovers cost us the game tonight,” Markkanen said. “So I’ll take the blame for that, but overall, fun to be back out there with my teammates.”

Gobert Enjoys Day Off In Utah

Though Gobert didn’t suit up in either game in Utah over the weekend, he still got to enjoy his time in the state during Sunday’s day off.

“My girlfriend is here for the first time, so I showed her my little hike that I used to go on all the time, it was hard for her because she’s pregnant, seven months pregnant.”

Gobert and his girlfriend announced that they were expecting in February.

“She really enjoyed it, she knows how much it means to me, how much Utah is a part of me,” Gobert added. “It was cool.”

 

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After his hike, Gobert hosted his teammates in his home which he has kept in Utah.

“We had a team dinner at my house yesterday so all the guys came over, so it was cool,” Gobert said. “I was driving around town, it’s always a lot of memories. And the weather — the sun came out when we got here so it was great.”

Gobert is averaging 13.7 points and 12.9 rebounds for the Timberwolves this season and is the front-runner to earn his fourth Defensive Player of the Year.

Jazz Standings Watch

With Monday’s loss, the Jazz fell to 29-39 on the season, and continue to own the ninth-worst record in the NBA.

The Atlanta Hawks, who own the tenth-worst record also fell on the road to the Los Angeles Lakers and sit at 30-38 on the season, one full game ahead of the Jazz in the standings.

Having lost three straight games, the Brooklyn Nets remain three games worse than the Jazz in the standings for the eighth-w0rst record in the NBA at 26-42.

If the regular season were to end today, the Jazz would have a 50.7 percent chance of drafting ninth, a 25.9 percent chance of drafting tenth, and over a 96.9 percent chance of holding onto this year’s first-round draft pick.

Utah Jazz Next Broadcast

The Jazz will face the Thunder on Wednesday at 6 pm MST in Oklahoma City. The game will be televised on KJZZ, streamed on Jazz+, and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.


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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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