April 1, 2018, 10:26 pm
It wasn’t the worst possible scenario, but it was about as close as it gets for the Wolves. Before the game even got going, the Spurs and the Thunder won and Jeff Teague was ruled out with an injury. They needed to take care of business at home versus the Utah Jazz to preserve the tie-breaker and hold firm in the standings.
Instead they get blown out by the Jazz, embarrassed in front of their fans and shredded by former Wolf (and still beloved by many) Ricky Rubio. The loss pushed the Wolves down to seventh in the West, just two games up on the ninth-place Nuggets.
Nothing went well for the Wolves in this game. They gave up 121 points to the Jazz, well above their season average of 103, and allowed them to shoot 60.5 percent from the field. Allowing any team to shoot that well is going to make it tough to win, but especially against the Jazz who are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.
A high-powered Wolves offense, missing two starters, just couldn’t recover enough. The Jazz held them to 42.2 percent shooting from the field, and 8-of-24 from 3-point range.
Going into this game it was important for Karl-Anthony Towns to draw Rudy Gobert away from the basket and force him to defend him at the 3-point line. He was unable to successfully do that, shooting 0-of-4 from beyond the arc, and making questionable passing decisions at the top of the key, throwing two balls into the stands.
It wasn’t Towns’ sharpest game of the season, and they needed him to be at his best. He still scored 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting, grabbing seven rebounds and two assists, which is more of a testament to his raw talent. He was not nearly at his best and it cost the Wolves.
Andrew Wiggins was extremely active once again, though, and was the best player for the Wolves. He scored 23 points with six rebounds, four assists, two steals and one 3-pointer. He shot just 10-of-22 from the field but his energy was off the charts, something that comes and goes often. Of late he has looked like a different player.
Wiggins alone wasn’t nearly enough, and many of the other Wolves were shut down. Only four players scored in double-digits, and one of them was thanks to garbage time late in the fourth.
To pour salt in the wound, the Jazz were led by Ricky Rubio in what must have been a sweet revenge game. He scored 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting, but most grueling of all he made 5-of-6 on 3-pointers.
Ricky Rubio with his fifth 3-pointer of the game. Enjoying sweet revenge pic.twitter.com/2L7RSI2MbP
— Kevin Brand (@KBranded) April 2, 2018
For years Rubio was criticized for his lack of outside shooting and inefficiency at the rim. A big factor in going after Jeff Teague was his improvements over Rubio in both departments. To come out in Minneapolis and put out a performance like that must have tasted incredibly sweet.
The game was forgettable for most of the Wolves, but Justin Patton will remember it forever, or at least a portion of it. Late in the fourth quarter Patton stood up off the bench, sauntered over to the scorers table, removed his warmup gear and checked in to his first career NBA game.
The “firsts” didn’t end there, as a few possessions into his stint, he picked up his first NBA foul! More importantly, though, he scored his first career basket. It was a nice catch to save it from going out of bounds, and didn’t hesitate going up over his left shoulder for a quick bucket.
— Kevin Brand (@KBranded) April 2, 2018
Besides Patton’s debut, Anthony Brown also made his Timberwolves’ debut. Brown had already played in the NBA, so his 3-pointer wasn’t as groundbreaking, but it was still fun to see two young players get a little bit of run, even if the circumstances weren’t ideal.
This loss puts a bit more pressure on the Wolves given their upcoming schedule. They have an upcoming back-to-back set that opens in Denver before concluding in Los Angeles with the Lakers. Playing at altitude is always a disadvantage for visiting teams, and the Lakers have been playing really well down the stretch without any reason to consider tanking.
The Wolves take on the Nuggets next Thursday.