Once again, the Wolves offense was more than adequate—113 points, 50 percent from the field, 28 made free throws and only 12 turnovers.
And once again, it wasn’t enough to rescue them from their atrocious defense, which gave up 120 to the Utah Jazz in yet another loss as the season winds down.
Tonight, the Jazz got hot from three-largely wide open ones--especially in the third quarter when the blitzed the Wolves and—stop me if you’ve head this before—came back from a halftime deficit with 40 points in the period to take a seven point lead heading to the fourth. The Wolves got close a couple times late, but could never string together enough stops to give themselves a chance to win the game.
In the end, the Jazz shot 60 percent from the field including an astonishing 14-25 from three. In addition to the arc, they were able to get to the rim with ease, either drawing multiple defenders for easy dishes for dunks or facing no resistance at all in their dribble-drive forays to the basket.
Gordon Hayward led the assault with 39 points, making 4-5 from three and an array of layups and dunks as the Wolves had no answer for him.
Once again a veteran and talented bench abused the Wolves, with Joe Johnson tallying 22 on 8-10 from the field (and four threes of his own) and Derrick favors scoring 13 on 6-9.
The disturbing thing is the Wolves really took nothing away. Open jumpers. Easy drives. Transition. It all looked way too easy for a Jazz team missing their point guard George Hill, and getting very little from a returning Rodney Hood. Without their normal starting back court, they still found it absurdly easy to score.
On the other side of the ball, the Wolves were once again paced by what is becoming a surprising trio of scorers—well one of them is surprising anyway. Ricky Rubio scored 26 on 7-14 from the field and drew a bunch of savvy fouls leading to 11 free throws. Seeing him this aggressive looking to shoot is still a bit jarring. He missed his first three shots tonight, but didn’t hesitate on his next one, which seems the biggest change in his approach. He also added 12 assists, but had a key turnover late in the game that hurt the Wolves final comeback effort.
Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 32 and 13, and led the way in the second half. He and Rubio combined to get Rudy Gobert in foul trouble, limiting his minutes, though he still finished with 7-9 from the field and 16 points. Towns kept them in it late with some big buckets, but in the end it wasn’t enough.
Andrew Wiggins didn’t shoot it great tonight (8-21), but got to the line and finished with 25. Once again he forced some tough ones in the fourth quarter as the Wolves got desperate, but that’s his game. He looks to score, and is usually good at it.
To the extent there was a problem offensively though, it’s that those three combined for 83 points, and that was pretty much it for the Wolves. Gorgui Dieng and Brandon Rush combined for 12, Shabazz had 11 off the bench, but the Jazz finally just sent multiple defenders at Towns and Wiggins and slowed the Wolves enough to finish them off. Wiggins and Towns each had 21 shot attempts, Rubio had 14, and Muhammad was next at eight. At the moment, they lack options.
But really, it was the defense that once again failed, a consistent theme of not only this season but the seasons in recent memory as well. It has to change.
- Omri Casspi played 38 minutes tonight (Dieng had 27) despite scoring only two points on 1-4. (Bizarrely was credited with five steals though.) It’s clear that Thibs wants that stretchier, perimeter guy out there—Bjelica was getting big minutes prior to his injury, and now Casspi. We’ll see how and if they address this in the off-season.
- I find it so odd that as the season comes to a close and the Wolves have little tangible to play for, we’ve seen Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones get their minutes cut. 11 each tonight. Neither has done much recently, but you’d think they would get more run in the circumstances, especially Dunn.
- The Wolves were a perfect 28-28 from the line, and Rubio got his technical free throw streak to 50.