In utterly predicable fashion, the Wolves lost to the Jazz tonight at Target Center due to a terrible shooting performance in which they clearly showed the effects of last night's double overtime victory in Washington. They just had no legs and as a result managed to shoot only 38% from the field after a long string of excellent shooting performances.
It happens. No shade tonight; I was mostly impressed the Wolves managed to keep the game close as long as they did, entering the fourth quarter down only a point. A Jazz run led by Gordon Hayward over the first three minutes of the fourth, however, pushed the lead to double digits, and the reinsertion of the starting unit was not enough tonight to get the Wolves back in it.
The game started very slowly for both teams, as neither could make shots in the early going. The Jazz eventually found something of a rhythm behind Derrick Favors from the mid-range, and opened up a double digit lead in the second quarter. A strong response from the Wolves, however, got them within a point, 35-34, (and yes, it was as ugly as that score makes it sound) at halftime.
Things loosened up a bit in the third quarter, with some key Ricky Rubio baskets spurring the offense, but ultimately the Wolves poor shooting doomed them, as the Jazz forced a few turnovers and made some big three pointers to get themselves in front, and they were never really challenged over the final few minutes.
As we've seen before, agile four men can cause problems for this Wolves team, and Derrick Favors took advantage with 19 points to lead the Jazz. It was on defense, however, where the Jazz big men really made their mark, with Favors (2) and Rudy Gobert (4) combining for six blocked shots and making it tough for the Wolves at the rim all night.
With the exception of Ricky Rubio, the perimeter shots weren't falling for the Wolves either. Rubio led the way shooting 9-12 (23 points), Karl-Anthony Towns managed 6-12 (14 points), and nobody else shot 50%. It was a particularly tough night for the Wolves big wing scorers, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins, who combined to shoot 7-23, and when you throw in Shabazz Muhammad's 4-12, the guys the Wolves count on to score just didn't have it tonight. Which is understandable under the circumstances, and they were probably due for some regression anyway, so I think you just chalk this one up to one of those schedule-driven nights and move on.
In truth, given their obvious fatigue, the Wolves defended admirably for the better part of three quarters. They kept the Jazz off the offensive glass all night (only seven O-boards for the Jazz), and forced some turnovers and rushed shots with an impressive effort. It finally got away from them, but the Wolves didn't capitulate.
You know, most of the time I am perfectly happy to avoid other humans. But tonight, I wish I was watching with someone so I would have a witness to this: Midway through the 2nd quarter, Ricky Rubio committed two straight turnovers and the Jazz were up a dozen. As the Jazz came down court, I said, out loud to nobody because I'm weird like that, "He's gonna get one back right now." Sure enough, Rubio grabbed one of his four steals on the night and took it coast to coast to jump start the Wolves back into the game.
It was a terrific performance by Rubio, who was clearly exhausted but refused to let it affect his game, and in fact he had one of his best shooting and scoring nights of the season. In addition to the 23 points and four steals, he grabbed five boards and dished six assists (his nine hoops and six dimes combine to represent nearly half of the Wolves field goals on the night). At one point in the third quarter, he grabbed a steal from Rudy Gobert who had just secured a defensive rebound, dribbled out to the three point line, buried the three, stole the ensuing inbounds pass, and fed Wiggins for a monstrous dunk. It was absolutely peak Rubio. Unfortunately, the Wolves simply didn't have enough to make it count tonight.
- Mitchell understandably went to his bench earlier than usual tonight in an attempt to keep the starters minutes down. He had to do it, but of course the Wolves bench...not good.
- Rodney Hood is a good looking player. Just does stuff, and looks like a capable defender as well.
- Trey Lyles also was impressive. Made three 3s and finished with 15 points on nine shots. The Jazz have some good looking young talent.
- They also could use a point guard.