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Jazz 106, Wolves 102: Falling Short

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The Wolves made an incredible comeback in Utah, but ultimately fell short

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Everything was trending against the Wolves heading into tonight’s game. Their opponent, the Utah Jazz, were playing well, it was the second game of a road back to back for the Wolves, and they were down to their third string point guard in Jerryd Bayless. Things only got worse once the game started, with Karl-Anthony Towns getting in early foul trouble, and then Taj Gibson getting ejected in the third quarter. The Jazz built a lead of 23 points late in the third quarter, and the game looked finished. But a Towns-inspired run in the fourth quarter actually got the Wolves back in the game, and they had the ball down two with more than a minute remaining. They could not push themselves over the line, however, and the Jazz held on for a 106-102 win.

There is no such thing as a moral victory, but this was as close as your going to get to it.

The Wolves started the game off quickly, but soon the Jazz began exerting control with their superior depth and three point shooting. Two early fouls on Towns, and later a third one when he re-entered the game in the second quarter didn’t help, as the Wolves had little depth available and struggled to score in the first half. Gorgui Dieng, who would leave the game in the second half with an apparent hip or back injury, did good work in the first, scoring all eight of his points, but the Wolves shot under 40 percent in the first half, and were fortunate to be down only seven at the break.

They were still hanging around, down 11 midway through the third when things went sideways. Andrew Wiggins did not get a call on what looked like a clear foul on a drive to the basket, and then Gibson got called for a foul at the other end. Gibson lost it at that point, drawing two deserved technicals complaining to official James Wilson about the sequence, and was thus ejected from the game. Towns was also assessed a technical.

The Jazz quickly took advantage, finding their range and extending their lead, and it looked like the game was over, with the Wolves down 21 headed into the fourth quarter. The Jazz were rolling, with Rudy Gobert dominating inside, Kyle Korver rolling from three, and Donovan Mitchell cruising.

Karl-Anthony Towns had different ideas, however. With guys who rarely play, such as Jared Terrell, Luol Deng, and C.J. Williams forced into action, Towns absolutely took over the game. After scoring four points in six first half minutes, Towns went on to score 29 in the second half, 13 in the fourth quarter on 6-9 from the field. He was ferocious going after the basketball, and recorded all three of his blocked shots in the fourth quarter. He willed his team back into the game, and then a late three from Bayless and two from Anthony Tolliver put them in position.

Unfortunately, they were unable to convert on three possessions they had to tie or take the lead, culminating when the Jazz did not allow them a clean three point look on their final chance.

This was a game that absolutely invited limited effort, especially after things started going south. The shorthanded Wolves refused to capitulate, however, and for that they deserve kudos. In the end, however, it’s another loss that drops them below .500 again. They face the Jazz again, this time at home, on Sunday. It’s one they need.

NOTES

  • Shouts for Jerryd Bayless, who put in 40 minutes tonight. He didn’t shoot it great, but he stuck in there and made a huge shot late in the game.
  • The Wolves are calling Gorgui Dieng’s injury a “hip contusion.”
  • I appreciate that Saunders is giving guys run, even if it’s out of necessity. We’re seeing more guys contribute, though there were some real struggles off the bench tonight.
  • Dario Saric once again struggled, he appears to be in a real slump at the moment. Zero points and one rebound in 17 minutes for Saric. They need more from him, obviously.
  • If “point Wiggins” is what helped them in L.A., it hurt them tonight. Wiggins shot the ball terribly (8-26,) and had five turnovers, including a key one late.
  • Was surprised Snyder didn’t go back to Ricky Rubio at all as things were falling apart in the fourth. He wasn’t great tonight, but knows how to calm things down and get decent looks.