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Utah Jazz v Minnesota Timberwolves

Wolves 105, Jazz 104: Clean Sweep

D’Lo exhibited that ice in his veins we’ve heard about

Ice, ice baby.
| Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

The Timberwolves don’t do first quarters well. They’re dead last in first-quarter net rating at -14.7. They do however excel when it comes to beating the Utah Jazz this season.

Make it a clean sweep, 3-0, after another slow start before an entertaining 105-104 finish, sealed with an outstanding sideline out-of-bounds play to take the lead with a D’Angelo Russell lay-up before a game-winning steal by defensive guru, rookie Jaden McDaniels—poked away by Ricky Rubio. Per Alan Horton, it’s the first time in their 32-year history they’ve swept a season series with Utah.

In a game loaded with eye-popping highlights, the Wolves once again beat the best team in the West led by double-doubles from their two MAX cornerstone best buds. Karl-Anthony Towns and Russell were magnificent.

Towns was quiet in the first half as the Jazz were fronting him and throwing doubles at him with Rudy Gobert shading him around the rim. That coverage essentially took KAT out of the game in the first 24 minutes. Coach Chris Finch said he was proud of Towns’ patience to gut out a great performance even with the tough defense he faced. He finally turned it up a notch after some halftime tweaks, exploding past Rudy Gobert on a baseline drive that ended in a ferocious reverse slam that helped get KAT to get going. “They didn’t even give me a chance to catch the ball before doubling,” says Towns. But the Jazz couldn’t contain the Wolves elite big man after the break. He finished with 21 points and 11 boards.

Before halftime, it was Russell who was keeping them alive with a scorching hot second-quarter showing from deep—18 of his 27 points came in the first half. He made a season-high 7 threes to go with 12 dimes—a collection of impressive dishes highlighted by an alley-oop to Towns in transition and a simple yet perfect pass to a cruising Anthony Edwards that ended with the hammer dunk. (What was Bojan Bogdanovic thinking even trying to contest it?) This was the sensational version of D’Lo the Wolves need him to be. He accounted for 53 points off the bench in 31 minutes.

The supporting players showed up, as well. McDaniels added 6 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 stocks. As noted before, his steal ended the game. His defense was again captivating and dominant. Juancho Hernangomez and Naz Reid combined for 27 off the pine, hitting a couple of treys to get the offense going a bit after being down 16 points after the first. Utah was drive-and-kicking the Wolves to another quick hole to dig out of, but the defensive intensity was dialed up a few notches after that. Mike Conley diced them up to begin, getting in the paint at will and often finding a soft spot in the Wolves' defense—the right corner 3. They cleaned that up, too. “You can’t ask for much more on the defensive end,” said Towns.

Conley finished with 27 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists to lead the way for Utah. Jordan Clarkson helped the Wolves out by shooting 5-20 and Joe Ingles did his part going 3-14. The shot contesting was strong though. Rudy Gobert had 18 on 8-8 but only grabbed 5 rebounds and ultimately KAT got the best of him.

Anthony Edwards struggled shooting going 5-17 but added 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and another monster slam that always seems to give the Wolves life. It was a game of smart adjustments by Chris Finch and the rest of the coaching staff, and ultimately execution. The team was prepared with the game on the line.

“I give coach [Finch] a lot of credit for that,” said Russell. “I think our preparation has been great.”

That’s how you draw up a final play to finish off the clean sweep of one of the league’s toughest squads. That’s how you play defense to get the job done. The Wolves deserved this win, and Finch deserves credit for having them prepared to come out victorious on a night everything could’ve easily fallen apart in those last 5 seconds.

But it didn’t, and that’s exciting to witness.