The Utah Jazz seemingly picked up where they left off Monday night. Yes, they defeated the Philadelphia 76ers that evening, but if anyone watched the game you would understand that this was not a compliment. As bad as they fared in the second half of that game, they were even worse in the first half of Wednesday’s bout with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Even though things improved greatly after halftime, the hole was too deep. The Jazz fell 94-80.
STATISTICS OF FUTILITY
It was not pretty. At all. And that is being kind. Thankfully the Jazz did not quit and managed to make a game of it in the second half. EvenHere is the evidence, and there an ample amount of it.
It was an ugly, ugly outing for a heavily depleted team. It was Hood worst performance of the season. As the great, late Hot Rod Hundley would have said, he could not hit the broadside of the barn. Neto also had a rough game, as Ricky Rubio essentially did whatever he wanted to. It was a night to forget, which is fortuitous for the Jazz, who return to Salt Lake City to take on more Northwest division peers in the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland dominated the Jazz it their first encounter.
YOU CANNOT STOP HIM. YOU CAN ONLY HOPE TO CONTAIN HIM
This writer jotted enough words about center Jeff Withey today, lauding him for his recent play. Well, Withey must have read that post, as he seemed extremely motivated to have another very good outing. Withey tallied 13 points to go along nine rebounds and two blocked shot. There was a spell in the third quarter where the big man was the team’s focal point on offense. While that is not the ideal scenario, Withey helped keep the Jazz within striking distance.
Over the last four games, Withey is now averaging 9.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 1.50 BPG. The Jazz will need him to continue the steady play as they weather the injuries of their front liners.
There were other positives. Trey Burke did everything he could to inject some life and offense in the second half. He was aggressive and clearly had the green light from head coach Quin Snyder to make things happen. With Neto struggling, Burke went a team-high 37 minutes and finished with 23 points and four assists. A few fourth quarter 3-pointers gave Utah hope, only for the Timberwolves to answer.
Trevor Booker also assumed a lion’s share of Favors’ available minutes and playing like a madman in the first half, out-hustling everyone on the court when it came to rebounds. The energetic forward managed to corral 13 of his 15 rebounds in the first half. It was impressive, especially in the midst of so much un-impressiveness. That same energy backfired a bit in the second half, resulting in some missed defensive rotations and costly turnovers. Even so, little fault can be found in Booker, who gave it his all.
Lastly, Lyles had another solid line with eight points and four rebounds. Defensively, he too committed some errors, but the young guy keeps showing flashes that help make the Jazz’s selection make sense.
Minnesota’s future is beyond bright. Rookie big man Karl Anthony-Towns is the absolute real deal, an immense talent without any glaring weaknesses. His overall body of work against the Jazz was fantastic. He scored inside and outside, exhibiting an impressive repertoire of offensive moves. His hustle and natural feel for the game made things happen on both ends of the court. While much of the rookie attention has been heaped upon New York Knicks center Kristaps Porzingis, it is clearly Anthony-Towns who is the cream of the crop.
Andrew Wiggins shot the ball poorly, but when everything was said and done, the lithe swingman had a 17 point, six rebound and four assists. He has made a big jump in his sophomore season, posting about 21 PPG. Ricky Rubio impacted the game greatly without needing to score. His court vision and unselfishness produced countless looks for his teammates. In fact, his 17 assists and three steals were very John Stockton-esque.
Throw in other nice pieces in Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad, Zach LaVine, Adreian Payne and Tyus Jones and few teams can rival Minnesota’s young core. It oozes with potential and while it may take another season or two, things are looking up for the Timberwolves.