So the Utah Jazz played this game without Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, Rodney Hood, and Patrick Christopher. And the Minnesota Timberwolves, not to be outdone, played without Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, and Nikola Pekovic. This was a battle of M*A*S*H units, and at times, both teams looked like the five men on the court were entirely unfamiliar with one another. Gordon Hayward was taxed early and did not have the best start of his life as the T-Wolves (and their refs) kept him out of the game.
Thankfully, the Jazz did get things going and won the middle of the game by +17. A huge part of that was the defensive tone set by the Derrick Favors / Rudy Gobert front court. And when one or both of them went to the bench, the shot blocking was replaced by the pure hustle of Jeremy Evans and Trevor Booker. On a night with no Pekovic it was important to win the paint -- and that's precisely what the Jazz bigs did (36 rebounds and 9 blocks, and plenty of activity otherwise).
Andrew Wiggins (20 points) and Shabazz Muhammad (not the 30 he had last time, but still looked good at times) had nice individual games on offense in single coverage, and Zach LaVine did look like he could get open for shots all day, but Minnesota did not have any fluid gameplan. Someone would carry the team, but no one else would get involved. In fact, I knew the game was won when Mo Williams started to get hot at the end of the third and the early 4th. While MoLo was engaged no one else did anything. He did score 20 points off of 16 shots though, so yeah. Three assists tho.
You know who did a better job being a point guard tonight? It was the University of Michigan's Trey Burke, who finished with 28 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 turn over, and went 10/16 from the field, and 4/6 from downtown. He seems to play great in states that start with the letter M; but there aren't a lot of them in the league. So I'm happy for this game and this performance. He was smart and efficient with his passes in the pick and roll, and didn't force anything (save for his last shot). He had some help from starting SG Joe Ingles (7 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 turn overs) -- extra ball handlers around him allowed for Trey to spot up and FINALLY make the shots he was drafted to make.
So in a game where Gordon Hayward doesn't kill it, and the team is really pressed for talent, it's good to know we can beat the Timberwolves when they are missing three starters -- even if it's the second night of a back to back. Trey Burke did a little better on defense, but it was his offense clicking that added a new dimension to this team. But Rudy Gobert, in a start, collected another double double, dunked the ball a lot, and had 6 blocks (more like 8). He was a monster.
And when those two cats are playing well, this is a very fun team to watch; and a young team on the rise!
The Jazz play next, on Monday, against the Indiana Pacers.
GO JAZZ GO!