Personally, I’m going back home, so I’m excited. But I think a change of scenery or change of routine will be good —Donovan Mitchell
SALT LAKE CITY — Usually it’s the other way around, but after being home for the most of the past two weeks when they played seven games at Vivint Arena, the Utah Jazz may actually be looking forward to hitting the road for the next seven days. Perhaps a change of scenery will do them some good.
That’s because the Jazz haven’t been having any success lately at their renovated arena in front of their home fans. Monday night it was the Minnesota Timberwolves’ turn to beat up on the Jazz on their home court, as they cruised to a 109-98 victory. The T-Wolves joined the Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat as teams that found Vivint Arena to their liking over the last 10 days.
Now it’s off to New York for the first of four road games over the next week as the Jazz meet the Knicks Wednesday night in Madison Square Garden, the first game of a set on the East Coast.
Coach Quin Snyder wasn’t exactly doing cartwheels over the prospect of going on the road for a week.
“The road provides additional adversity,” Snyder said. “And to do those things on the road, it’s generally harder, and so it requires more concentration and certainly more than we had tonight.”
One player who sees the upcoming road trip as a positive is rookie Donovan Mitchell, who once again led his team in scoring – the sixth time this season — with 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting, and had four rebounds, four assists and four steals.
“Personally, I’m going back home, so I’m excited,” said the native of Westchester, New York. “But I think a change of scenery or change of routine will be good.”
Mitchell was the bright spot for the Jazz in the defeat as several of the main Jazz players struggled without injured Rudy Gobert in the lineup for the second straight game.
After going for 24 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday’s win over Brooklyn, Derrick Favors could only manage nine points and 10 boards going up against Minnesota’s talented young center Karl-Anthony Towns. Joe Ingles couldn’t hit a shot all night, going 0 for 6, while Ricky Rubio’s struggles continued as he finished with as many turnovers as points (3) and only made 1 of 7 shots.
Snyder didn't fault his team's effort, but he wasn't happy with a defense that allowed Minnesota to shoot 52 percent from the field.
"I think our guys played hard, but we just didn't play collectively as a unit defensively," he said. "It was a messy game defensively. Where we are right now, it’s going to be difficult if we don’t compete together."
Monday’s game felt a lot like game last March when the young T-Wolves came into Vivint Arena and handed the Jazz their worst home loss of the season, a 107-80 thrashing.
The Jazz were never in this one, falling behind 13-3 in the opening four minutes and trailing 33-14 by the end of the first quarter. An 8-1 run just before halftime put the Jazz within striking distance, but Jeff Teague sank a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to make it 57-42 at the half.
In the second half, the Timberwolves gradually expanded their lead up to 26 points at 86-60 and ended the quarter up 88-65.
The Jazz got the crowd excited midway through the fourth quarter with a scrappy lineup that included Mitchell, Raul Neto, Royce O’Neale, Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh. But the Jazz could never get closer than 11 as they forced Minnesota to keep its starters in to the end of the game.
Towns led the T-Wolves 24 points and 13 rebounds in 41 minutes as all five starters played at least 37 minutes and scored in double figures. Teague, who was outplayed by Rubio in Minnesota last month, scored 22 points, while Jimmy Butler had 21 points and 10 assists. Taj Gibson and Andrew Wiggins added 15 and 11, respectively.
Besides Mitchell’s 24, Rodney Hood scored 16 points off the bench on 5-of-11 shooting, while Thabo Sefalosha scored 13, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Jonas Jerebko also scored 13 in his first start of the season and Alec Burks added 11 off the bench on 5-of-8 shooting.
After the road trip, which will take the Jazz to New York, Brooklyn, Orlando and Philadelphia, the team will be back in town on Wednesday, Nov. 22 for a game against the Chicago Bulls, followed by a game three days later against Milwaukee.