Facing the same team in a home-and-home twice in three days presents unique challenges and opportunities for adjustments. After the Minnesota Timberwolves (8-7) took out the Utah Jazz (9-5) in Salt Lake City Monday night, the Jazz returned the favor with a 103-95 win in Minnesota.
The biggest difference in this outcome was that instead of being otherworldly like he was Monday (29/13/5/2/2), Karl-Anthony Towns was simply really good tonight with 14 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block. KAT was largely held in check for much of the night, especially from the perimeter. He was held to single digits until the fourth quarter. The Timberwolves bench did what it could to keep their heads above water with Jarrett Culver and Kelan Martin each dropping 10 points, but ultimately the Jazz’s top-end talent was too much to overcome as Bojan Bogdanovic, Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley combined for 72 points.
Reaction #1: The Jazz bench needs help
I don’t know if it comes from development within or bringing help in from outside, but Utah’s second unit continues to be a problem. Emmanuel Mudiay is capable of delivering a competent scoring punch and making good decisions. We’ve seen it. But too often we get nights like tonight, when Mudiay was a -24 in 16 minutes with 2 points on 1-of-7 shooting. Perhaps Dante Exum returns to form and delivers help in the second unit, but we have yet to see that either; he played only 8 minutes tonight as he continues to return from injury and didn’t do much of note.
And then we have the bigs. Ed Davis cannot return soon enough, because non-Rudy Gobert minutes are an abject disaster right now. Tony Bradley was a DNP-CD after a handful of disappointing performances, which left Jeff Green to fill in at center. It worked out ok tonight, at least in the first half, when Green potted a couple of easy baskets, but it’s not sustainable.
Utah’s bench was outscored 16-28 by Minnesota’s reserves. Luckily the Jazz got through it because...
Reaction #2: The Jazz starters are good at basketball
I already mentioned Utah’s top 3 scorers, Bogdanovic, Mitchell and Conley, combined for 72, which is insane. Bogdanovic and Mitchell were a combined 11-of-21 from 3 and their catch and shoot looks feel almost automatic. Utah’s other 2 starters, Gobert and Royce O’Neale, continue to deliver first-team All-NBA level defense. There’s a lot going wrong with this team right now, but the top-end talent remains elite.
Overreaction #1: The win means Utah’s offense is fixed
The Jazz have fallen in love with two things this season that need to work their way out of the game plan: The floater, and the non-paint two-point jump shot. Donovan Mitchell started the season very hot from the mid-range and that masked the problem for a while. Lately, though, he’s cooled off and Mike Conley, who used to be automatic on his floaters in Memphis, can’t buy one so far in a Jazz uniform.
Cutting back on those two things means the offense needs more movement. If I have to watch one more possession with a couple of high ball screens followed by two players passing back and forth while the rest watch and the possession ending in a floater or a mid-rang jumper I’m going to lose it. I mentioned that Mitchell and Bogdanovic are excellent at the catch-and-shoot 3. O’Neale and Ingles are nearly automatic on those as well. Utah needs to find a way to get more of those shots and get Gobert, whose touches are on a sharp decline this season, rolling to the rim more. There’s a lot of season left and I trust Quin Snyder to get it right, but it’s not pretty right now.
Overreaction #2: NBA officiating is making the game unwatchable
If you stuck with this game through the sluggish first quarter that had to be one of the longest in NBA history, you know what I mean by this. There was hardly a possession in that first quarter that didn’t end in a whistle. There were 17 fouls called in the first frame alone, including a technical on Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders for... No one is really sure why.
The whistles were more controlled in the second quarter, where only 6 fouls were called. This sped up the game, but the inconsistency is maddening. One quarter every touch is whistled, the next there are multiple muggings in the lane with no call. If it’s frustrating for us sitting at home watching, imagine how it must feel for the players on the court.
Underreaction: Joe Ingles needs to let it fly
I think it’s fair to say Ingles is having a bit of a tough time adjusting to a new role coming off the bench this season. I won’t get into it too much here except to say, when he gets open looks from 3 he has got to shoot. Too often he’s messing up his shot with hesitation or passing up good looks to get the ball to worse shooters. He was 0-of-2 from beyond the arc tonight, but passed up another 2-3 easy looks that we’ve seen him make literally hundreds of times.