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Pack Points: Jousting the Jazz

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A Western Conference win for the Wolves

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

After painfully woeful losses to the permanently bad Washington Wizards and the temporarily depleted Houston Rockets, one could be forgiven for predicting a Timberwolves loss against Utah.

Before tip-off, the Jazz, who added Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic to their already potent roster in the offseason, were 8-4 and unbeaten at the comfort of the Vivint Smart Home Arena. Then came Minnesota, battered and bruised with injuries and illnesses themselves, to stop the streak and snatch away an inspiring win.

After going back-and-forth for the first three quarters, Karl-Anthony Towns led a fourth-quarter outburst and pulled away with a 112-102 victory.

Down-Towns

You could have penciled in Karl-Anthony Towns for an eruption in his next meeting with the Jazz at the end of last season when Rudy Gobert ousted him for a spot on the All-NBA Third Team.

Towns, who has worked himself back into some stellar form after a slight lull coming back from suspension, didn’t disappoint. The big man finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Maybe even more impressive, though, was the fact he drilled 7-15 from long-range. The makes tied a career-high for KAT and the attempts surpassed his previous best.

None more ravishing than this super deep splash that landed another hard fourth-quarter haymaker on the chin of Gobert and his squad.

With Towns in ultra-spacing mode, the Wolves dragged back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year Gobert out of his comfort zone around the hoop, a tactic that paid dividends for Towns and the rest of the team.

Something tells us this won’t be the last time we see Towns go all Steph Curry on us.

Next Martin Up

It had been a rough start to Kelan Martin’s NBA career. After four minutes and three missed shots in game two against Charlotte, he had to wait 10 games before getting a real rotational chance. He promptly fell flat on his face in the horrid Wizards-Rockets home stand, shooting a combined 4-15 from the field and failing to connect on any of the 10 triples he launched.

Against Utah, redemption called. And Martin was waiting by the phone eagerly to take it. He was undoubtedly the X factor in his fourth game. He featured in a career-high 24 minutes, scoring 14 points on 6-7 shooting (2-3 3PT) and pulling down 6 rebounds. He also posted a jaw-dropping +33.2 net rating on the night — the best of any Wolf.

Martin was on-point with his outside looks and consistently exhibited his pretty floater game. Impressively, he scored 7 of his 14 points in the final term, hitting all three of his field goal attempts.

With injuries to the Timberwolves’ wing stocks mounting by the minute, Martin might become a mainstay in the rotation. If that’s the case, it’s nice to know his confidence will be boosted by a big game against a great defense.

Defense Returns

It seems that the Timberwolves’ defense just needed a weekend off. Hell, it’s been a long time since they’ve been a top-20 defense, maybe we should we allow them a little weekend away.

It was back to business on Monday, though. Minnesota held a Jazz team that is littered with creators and finishers to just 102 points, 36.5 percent shooting and a 96.2 offensive rating. While Robert Covington and Josh Okogie were their usual defensively-brilliant selves, it took a full team effort to slow down Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic and Co.

When you have Karl-Anthony Towns and, usually, Andrew Wiggins on the hardwood, putting the ball in the cylinder usually won’t be a problem. If they can continue to lock down on defense, we might just see more wins of this caliber.

Aggressive Teague is Good Teague

We’ve seen it before and we will undoubtedly see it again, but it’s always fun when Jeff Teague plays with a chip on his shoulder.

He started slowly in this one, but roared back into life and finished the night as one of Minnesota’s best contributors. When the final horn blew, the polarizing point guard had 21 points, 4 boards and 11 assists.

His game can pretty much be summed up with this dazzling move.

Historically, the Timberwolves are a hard team to beat when Teague is rolling and this season has been no different. The team is 2-0 when Teague amasses 20 points or more. Long story short, they need their point guard to be in attack mode more often.

Injury Bug Bites Again

We’re not even 15 games into the season but the injury and illness bug is already ravaging it’s way through the Timberwolves roster.

While Teague is back from his ailment, fellow point guard Shabazz Napier remained out for his eighth straight game with a hamstring strain. Wiggins remained sidelined in Utah and is listed as questionable for the rematch in Minnesota tonight.

Josh Okogie played after missing the Rockets game with knee soreness, but exited the game for a brief stint against the Jazz and is also questionable for the next one. And on top of that, the Utah win added a new name to the ever-growing list: Jake Layman.

The forward suffered a minor foot injury during the second quarter and is listed a doubtful for the next game. Layman has been surprisingly good after signing a 3-year deal in the summertime and will be a big loss to Minnesota’s already depleted squad. He provides energy, scoring and an improved shooting touch that the Wolves desperately crave.

Ban injuries.