Minnesota fell tonight, but the way with which they fought was admirable. Yes, the officiating was... suspect. That’s all I’ll say on that matter. Unrelated, both Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins found themselves on the bench early in the first quarter with two fouls, and I’ll admit, I thought the game was over.
It wasn’t, though, as Minnesota’s reserves fought to keep the Wolves in the game as most of their offense sat on the bench. It is largely because of them that Minnesota only trailed by two points heading into the half.
The second half was a wild, back-and-forth affair. The Jazz defense was suffocating, as they effectively schemed KAT out of the game. Towns finished with 14 points on 5/10 from the floor, and that FGA total is far too low. Round two was a decisive win for Rudy Gobert.
This has become somewhat of a common theme in recent games, and it needs to end, now. It’s kind of strange that Minnesota seemed unprepared for Utah’s adjustments against Towns, given that they just played each other on Monday.
Either way, all the credit in the world goes to Quin Snyder. He’s one of the best in the business, and it shows. This stat, in particular, shows how adept he is at making adjustments from game-to-game, which is extremely valuable come playoff time.
Under Quin Snyder, the Jazz are 9-2 ATS on the road after losing to the same team within a week. https://t.co/DDpg0F72Og— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) November 20, 2019
Gambling degeneracy and small sample size aside, it’s telling that you can’t really get the Jazz twice in a row. Minnesota was unprepared for the adjustments that Utah made, and it showed. They completely wiped Towns out inside the three-point line, and made Towns live nearly entirely off of step-back threes.
The stellar defense went beyond just Gobert, though. The Jazz wing players did a phenomenal job passing off Towns in the pick-and-roll, doubling him aggressively before the catch and making Minnesota’s worst shooters make shots (see: Treveon Graham). Utah is a mainstay at the top of defensive leaderboards, and it’s easy to see why. They took away KAT and made driving lines non-existent at times for Andrew Wiggins and company.
Speaking of Wiggs, it was a mixed bag for him tonight in his return. He had 22 points on 10-24 shooting, which was dragged down by his putrid 1-10 from three. He was impressive in the paint with his touch and attacking of Gobert, but Minnesota needed him to make a few jumpers tonight and he simply did not.
There were a few other standouts for each team tonight, but the biggest for Utah was Bojan Bogdanovic. He just might be one of the most underappreciated players in the entire NBA with how skilled he is as a passer and shooter. His array of skills was on full display tonight, as he dropped 30 points on only 18 FGA, including 6-11 from three. Minnesota routinely lost him, especially in the corners, which led to Bogdanovic ripping the net. He’s not quite a good enough piece to put Utah over the top into the very top tier in the league, but he’s still a damn good pickup from this offseason.
On Minnesota’s end, all of the young wing players had their moments. Jarrett Culver continues to flash scoring prowess on the offensive end both from the outside and around the rim. Josh Okogie hounded Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell for much of the evening. Keita Bates-Diop made a few nice plays.
The one guy who stuck out among the young wings, though, was Kelan Martin. For the second time in as many games, Martin’s shooting played a big role for the Wolves. I’m not sure if he can do anything else on the basketball court that’s helpful, but this team is so starved for shooting that it seems likely he carves out a role solely because of his shooting.
As a team, though, Minnesota simply did not make enough shots to beat such a good team. They were under 40% from the floor, but they really left points on the board at the free-throw line. Minnesota was a disgusting 11-21 from the line tonight, good for a *gulp* 52%. You’re obviously not going to make all of your free-throws, but making a few more earlier in the game certainly change the dynamic late in the game.
While the offense in general was a negative, the defense was promising outside of losing Bogdanovic a few too many times. The Wolves battled. It’s hard to get Quin Snyder twice in a row.
A 1-1 split with Utah over these past two games is an acceptable outcome. A sweep would’ve been great for their way-too-early playoff positioning, but it’s hard to be too upset with this type of loss. On to the next one.