Minnesota handed Utah its first home loss of the season on Monday. The Jazz have a quick chance to settle the score when they face the Timberwolves again Wednesday in Minneapolis.
The Timberwolves rallied for a 112-102 victory behind a fourth-quarter offensive explosion. They scored 36 points while shooting 68.8 percent from the field over the final 12 minutes. Karl-Anthony Towns led the way with 29 points — including a career-high seven 3-pointers. Towns attempted a franchise-record 15 3-pointers.
The Minnesota center made a conscious effort to draw his Jazz counterpart Rudy Gobert away from the rim and his outside shooting opened up the offense down the stretch.
“I saw some 3-point shots were available and I am not afraid to shoot it,” Towns said. “I shot 15 and I could have possibly even shot 20.”
Minnesota snapped a two-game losing streak and held an opponent to under 110 points for just the second time over its last nine games. Defensively, the Timberwolves coerced Utah into getting increasingly impatient in running its offensive sets and settling for a ton of wild shots down the stretch.
Several players in the Jazz rotation shot under 40 percent from the field. Donovan Mitchell had the most pronounced struggles — bottoming out with a season-worst 5-of-23 shooting effort.
“As a whole we missed some open ones, but down the stretch I took some wild ones and that can’t happen,” Mitchell said.
Utah has lost two in a row after getting off to its best start in a decade. Over the two losses, the Jazz gave up an average of 33 points in the fourth quarter. They’ve also averaged just 18.5 assists on 35 baskets in each game.
Both are uncharacteristic for a Utah team accustomed to playing unselfish offense and lockdown defense under coach Quin Snyder. The Timberwolves understand that both trends are unlikely to be more than a blip on the radar.
“Coach Snyder is one of the best in the league,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said. “I have so much respect for him and he’ll have that team ready. They’ll continue to get shots.”
The Timberwolves will likely need to lean on Towns to have another big game. Minnesota could be without Andrew Wiggins for a fourth straight game. An unspecified illness caused him to miss the Utah game after he sat out the previous two games due to a personal matter.
Wiggins is averaging a career-high 25.9 points on 47.8 percent shooting in his first 11 games. He’s also putting up career best marks in rebounds (5.1) and assists (3.6).
The Jazz just got back a key rotation player when backup guard Dante Exum made his season debut on Monday. Exum scored two points and recorded both a steal and a block in 14 minutes in his first game back from a long rehabilitation from a knee injury he suffered eight months ago.
“I’m sure there’s a lot going on in your mind when you’ve been out that long and you’re recovering from an injury,” Snyder said. “So, I thought he really competed as much as anything and that to me is a success in and of itself.”
–Field Level Media