To be mentally focused, to communicate, to do all the things that are hard to do when you’re tired? We expended a lot of energy (Friday) night. We had a lot of guys banged up. It was good to see the guys come together and play well. —Jazz coach Quin Snyder
MINNEAPOLIS — The list of injuries had grown so long that Jazz coach Quin Snyder may just as well have pulled lineups from his hat prior to Saturday’s game.
Instead, he reached in and pulled out a rabbit.
Forced into scramble mode by a raft of injuries that left depth at shooting guard almost nonexistent and kept center Enes Kanter out of action, all the Jazz did was knock the stuffing out of the Timberwolves, 101-89 at Target Center.
This after getting into the Twin Cities at 2 a.m. after a home loss.
Playing on the back end of back-to-back games, it was the Jazz that had the energy, not the hapless Timberwolves, whose losing streak stretched to 11. It was the Jazz proving that injuries don’t have to translate into losses. It was the Jazz who got contributions from so many players that Snyder’s postgame press conference went long just talking about them.
“To be mentally focused, to communicate, to do all the things that are hard to do when you’re tired?” Snyder said. “We expended a lot of energy (Friday) night. We had a lot of guys banged up. It was good to see the guys come together and play well.’’
Point guard Trey Burke, coming off a nightmarish 2-for-19 performance on Friday, scored a season-high 28 points on 10-for-16 shooting, making 4 of 6 3-pointers with six assists and a steal. Burke and Snyder had a long talk on the flight to Minnesota. While Burke wasn’t willing to go into the details, here was the gist of it: “We talked about me staying confident,” Burke said. “Not letting one night get you down. He told me a lot of guys in this league go through times when they’re not making shots they know they can make. I just tried to stay confident and stay aggressive and put that behind me.”
He was not alone on the hero list. Consider:
— Forced into the starting lineup due to Enes Kanter’s sprained ankle. Rudy Gobert had career highs in points (13) and blocks (six) and had 11 rebounds. After a slow first half, it was Gobert’s monster third quarter — 11 points, five rebounds and five blocks — that helped the Jazz (12-22) take over the game for good. It was because of his presence that the Jazz outscored Minnesota 22-4 in the paint in the third quarter.
“I wasn’t happy at halftime about my defense and I just tried to do more in the second half,” he said. “I think I did a pretty good job.”
— Given his first career start because of Patrick Christopher’s injury, Joe Ingles had seven points and four assists.
— Then there were the 15 rebounds by Trevor Booker off the bench, to go with a career-high six assists. And 15 points and eight rebounds from Derrick Favors. And nine points from Jeremy Evans.
Put it all together and you have a strikingly easy-looking victory.
Down two late in the first half, Burke’s 3-pointer with 2:47 left in the second quarter sparked a 12-4 Jazz run to end the half and give Utah a 47-41 halftime lead.
And the Jazz were just getting started. That run eventually stretched to 33-11, with Burke’s driving layup with 5:45 left in the third quarter pushing Utah’s lead to 68-48. The Wolves got that lead down to eight early in the fourth quarter. But, coming out of a timeout, a 14-4 Jazz run pretty much put the game away.
After the game 'Wolves coach Flip Saunders — his own team also hamstrung by injuries — called the loss “as bad as we’ve had in a long time, at least that I’ve been associated with.”
The mood was different in the Utah locker room, of course. After a slow start to the season the Jazz have now won 6 of 9 games and 4 of their last 6 on the road. Not bad for a team as young as the Jazz. Or one as beat-up.
“With a lot of guys being out right now, guys are stepping up to the plate,” Burke said. “It’s not like they’re not ready.’’