The Minnesota Timberwolves hosted the Utah Jazz on Thursday night. The Jazz came into the matchup on the second night of a back-to-back. The Jazz suffered a tough defeat Wednesday without all-star Lauri Markkanen at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. The sputtering Jazz — 12th in the Western Conference — were looking to turn their fortunes against the West’s No. 1 seed.
With Minnesota looking to build up another win streak, they gave the short-handed Jazz an insurmountable battle. The T-Wolves defeated the Jazz with a final score of 101-90. Here are two instant takeaways from the Wolves’ win Thursday night.
No Anthony Edwards, no problem
With Anthony Edwards out due to a right hip pointer stemming from a scary fall in Tuesday’s win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota was looking to get the dub without the all-star guard. Minus their leading scorer, the Wolves got a huge performance from All-NBA big man Karl-Anthony Towns. KAT led the way for Minnesota scoring a game-high 32 points. KAT’s production was more than just his scoring efforts as Towns contributed in other areas as the offensive focal point for Minnesota. The seven-footer snagged 11 rebounds and added five assists as well.
In addition to Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota found some much-needed production from Nickeil Alexander-Walker. On top of his point-attack defense, Alexander-Walker provided a nice offensive boost to a team badly needing it. NAW poured in 20 points to go along with seven assists. On the defensive end, the Timberwolves guard tallied an impressive four steals and two blocks.
Alexander-Walker ignited the crowd in the third quarter with some highlight reel plays in transition. With Edwards out of the lineup, the Wolves leaned on NAW as a creator of offense both in the half-court and when pushing the pace. His play was instrumental in the Wolves increasing their lead early in the second half.
The Timberwolves defense dominated… again!
With the Jazz coming into Thursday’s game short-handed and on their second game in two days, it would’ve been easy for the Timberwolves to overlook Utah. That was not the case, however. Minnesota’s defensive identity rang through again as Rudy Gobert led the way for Minnesota against his former team. The Frenchman finished the night with a remarkable 15 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Gobert’s consistency on the defensive end this season has been a large reason that Minnesota came into Thursday’s matchup with a league-best 106.6 defensive rating. Rudy’s activity level has been essential in the way Minnesota has defended. Outside of recording blocks and challenging shots at the rim, Gobert has been comfortable defending stretch-bigs, applying ball pressure, and impacting passing lanes. With the Stifle Tower’s defensive play this year, he could be in line for his fourth Defensive Player of the Year trophy.
In addition to Gobert, other Timberwolves gave great efforts on the defensive end. The team tonight recorded a total of 13 steals and seven blocks. Veteran guard Mike Conley finished the game with two steals and Towns also impacted the game defensively by recording two steals and a block of his own.
With Minnesota’s big win and second-half onslaught against the Jazz, the Wolves now hold a 14-4 record, remaining at the top of the Western Conference. The team will now turn its attention to the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday. With no LaMelo Ball, the Hornets have an uphill battle against a roaring Timberwolves team on the prowl. The Timberwolves will re-evaluate Edwards prior to the game against the Hornets, but the Wolves proved Thursday night they can find team success in the event of Edwards missing more time due to his right hip pointer.