There’s a reason why Hot Rod Hundley dubbed the Minnesota Timberwolves ‘pesky’ - and it was because of games like this. The Utah Jazz eventually would prevail 120-113, but only because the team dropped 40 in the third quarter and shot so well in the second half of the game. Yes, there were injuries on both sides where starters and rotation players were out. But that didn’t stop the pesky T-Wolves from leading after one, and extending that lead at halftime.
No,, no siree. Tom Thibodeau had his young club and pair of 21 year old studs (Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins - a combined 57 points, 18 rebounds, and perfect 14/14 from the line) didn’t come into this game expecting a loss. They came into Utah expecting to fight hard all night long. And that’s precisely what they did.
Steadied by an unusually hot shooting Ricky Rubio, Wiggins and Towns repeatedly attacked the basket and didn’t give up. Former Jazz draft picks Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng got into the act as well and those five players almost single-handedly beat the Utah Jazz. In Utah. For the second time in this season.
And it looked bad for a while there with newly returned bigman Derrick Favors and DPOY candidate Rudy Gobert both in super-duper foul trouble. Thankfully this team features Gordon Hayward and a pair of not-so-average Joes.
Hayward had a new career-high of 39 points, thanks in part to drilling four threes out of five attempts, and making 14 shots overall. Joe Ingles was fantastic on defense and forcing turn overs. He also helped the Jazz score, count ‘em, 14 fast break points as a result. His scrappiness caused turn overs, or helped him get steals, and he dished out 8 assists in this game. Joe also made his usual threes, but that’s so basic by now.
When the team wasn’t in transition Joe Johnson was punishing the Wolves with his offensive arsenal off the bench. The veteran finished with 22 points off of 10 shots, and tied with Hayward for highest +/- in this game with +13 in a seven point victory.
This was a tough game, but at least the foul trouble helped to keep the Jazz bigs under a minutes restriction. They play tomorrow night @ Portland Trail blazers in the tail end of a back-to-back set. Gobert only played 27 minutes and Favors just 17. Portland still doesn’t have any bigmen, so this is good.
It is curious that in the first game AFTER GM Dennis Lindsey is talking about the refs and all the missed calls against the Jazz we see the refs giving the other team so many more free throws. The final tally was 28 to 22, but the last five Jazz FTA came in the last 1:15 with Minnesota needing to foul. The Wolves, the road team, were ahead for most of the night between +8 FTA and +13 FTA.
At the end of the day, it was a Jazz win. Win #49 on the year. One more against Portland tomorrow night and it’s 50.