I must admit that game did not inspire me for this recap. The Wolves struggled all night against a motivated Jazz squad, falling behind for good in the third quarter and losing in rather ho-hum fashion 98-85.
Despite the low score, the Wolves real struggle tonight was on defense, as the Jazz took turns dominating proceedings, with Trey Lyles, in the lineup for Derrick Favors, scoring 17 in the first half on an array of jumpers and drives to the basket, and Gordon Hayward getting hot in the 2nd half, getting to the rim with far too much ease.
Overall, the Jazz shot 53% on the night. All of their starters were in double figures, and the Wolves really failed to take anything away. 11 offensive rebounds for the Jazz added to the misery, and were an indication that the Wolves could not stop penetration, particularly from Hayward and Rodney Hood tonight, as help at the rim led to easy rebounding opportunities, especially for Rudy Gobert, who gobbled up seven offensive boards among his 14 total rebounds, while also going 4-4 from the field.
It didn't help that the Wolves got into early foul trouble, with both Ricky Rubio and Gorgui Dieng picking up two early fouls which forced subs that Sam Mitchell didn't want to make. It also led to several minutes of Zach LaVine returning to the point guard position,which did not go well, especially since he is in the midst of a very tough stretch. After going 0-fer against the Clippers, LaVine failed to score until a three in the fourth quarter tonight, and finished 1-9 with three points. Dieng was completely marginalized in this game by the Jazz playing Lyles and other more perimeter oriented bigs along side Gobert, and only saw 10 minutes of action.
In fact, this was an example of something the Wovles have had trouble with throughout the season, especially since they have been starting Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns together in the absence of Kevin Garnett: perimeter oriented and/or agile power forwards cause them real trouble, as neither Towns nor Dieng is comfortable guarding in space and out to the three point line. Lyles showed it again tonight in the first half, and its something the Wolves will need to address in the off-season.
The highlight of the night for the Wolves was probably the play of Nemanja Bjelica off the bench. After a nice stint in mop-up duty against the Clippers, Bjelica played a big role tonight, with 15 points, 8 boards, and 2 assists (with zero turnovers) in 35 minutes of play. He took most of Dieng's minutes, and was quite effective, which is good to see. He's been showing some signs of life lately, and any ray of sunshine is welcome as we get to the end of the season.
All in all though, the Wolves were beaten by a better team that had more motivation to win. Not unexpected, but the last couple of games have put a damper on what had been a decent stretch of basketball for the Wolves.
Let's do some bullet points:
- Andrew Wiggins had a strong first half with 14 points, and finished with 24, but it took him 21 shots to get there and he failed to get a defensive rebound. He also struggled with Hayward, especially in the 2nd half.
- Karl-Anthony Towns had a very quiet first half, then exploded in the third quarter, scoring the Wolves' first 12 points of the period. He couldn't sustain it though, and finished with 17 on 6-15 shooting.
- The Wolves only got to the line 10 times tonight, which without looking it up, could be a season low. The Jazz are really good at protecting the rim without fouling. The Wolves had real trouble getting anything in the paint.
- Amazingly, the Jazz only had 13 assists on 38 made field goals, but still shot 53%.
- The Wolves are back home Sunday afternoon to face another team desperately in need of wins as they try to make the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks.