Timberwolves aim to rebound in rematch with Jazz
Injuries to key players have opened a door for Minnesota to reveal its true NBA identity. What the Timberwolves have revealed is a team that won't go down without a fight.
That much became clear in a 106-102 loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday night.
Playing without injured point guards Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose, Minnesota rallied from a 21-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter and drew within a point in the final minute. The Timberwolves had a chance to take the lead, but Jerryd Bayless and Luol Deng each missed a go-ahead 3-pointer in the waning seconds.
Utah and Minnesota will clash for the second time in three days on Sunday in Minneapolis. It's a safe bet the Timberwolves got the attention of the Jazz -- and all other upcoming NBA opponents -- with their gritty performance.
"I'd like to say this is who we are moving forward," Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said. "This is our identity. We stay together. We don't fracture. We're in it for each other. No matter what is thrown at us, we're going to give everything we have."
Karl-Anthony Towns played a major role in keying the second-half resurgence. Towns scored 29 of his 33 points after halftime, pulled down 10 rebounds and had three blocks. He did it all in just 29 minutes after sitting all but six minutes in the first half after picking up three quick fouls.
For Towns, who produced his ninth game of the season with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds, it became a matter of showing pride and resolve to lift his team in a moment of adversity.
"That's always been the theme with me," Towns said. "Fourth quarter, I'm trying to take over the game and dominate. I'm trying to give us a chance to win. I was just being a little aggressive all around and trying to make plays everywhere."
Utah's main concern in the rematch with Minnesota is keeping Towns and his teammates in check for four quarters. That final quarter collapse took some luster away from another win for the Jazz.
Utah went 5 of 27 from the field in the fourth quarter, enabling the Timberwolves to rally. The Jazz shot 48 percent over the first three quarters.
"We have to be better," said center Rudy Gobert. "We can't start the fourth quarter thinking the game is over. Everyone that comes in the game has to be ready."
It will likely fall on the shoulders of Gobert and Donovan Mitchell to keep things rolling for Utah in Minneapolis. Gobert earned his 41st double-double after finishing with 18 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks on Friday. Mitchell scored 24 points and dished out a career-high 11 assists for his first career regular season double-double.
Gobert is averaging 14.8 points, 14.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.4 blocks in January. Mitchell is averaging 28.0 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.5 rebounds in the same stretch.
The biggest thing Utah wants, above everything else, is a better collective effort to get and keep a mental edge for four quarters.
"We have to be more mentally tough to do all the little things and maintain discipline when we have a lead," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "Otherwise the lead doesn't last very long."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 26, 2019