SALT LAKE CITY — If the Utah Jazz’s starting point-guard situation since the beginning of last season was represented by a triangle, George Hill and Ricky Rubio would be the two sides and Jeff Teague would be the base.
In the summer of 2016, Teague was sent to the Indiana Pacers from the Atlanta Hawks in a three-team deal that netted the Jazz Hill, and earlier this year, the Minnesota Timberwolves signed Teague after trading Rubio to Utah.
On Monday night as the Jazz and Timberwolves faced off at Vivint Arena, Teague won the point guard battle in a landslide over Rubio. The Wake Forest product finished with 22 points, three assists, three rebounds and two steals, while Rubio scored just three points with two assists and no steals as Minnesota won 109-98 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated.
Teague insisted after the game that he didn’t necessarily have extra motivation playing against Rubio, who spent his first six seasons of his career in Minnesota.
“It’s never personal," he said. "I’m always a competitor but it’s never personal. I think he’s a helluva player, and I’ve been in the same situation leaving a team after being there for so long. I’m sure he wanted to play well. As a competitor, I want to make sure that he doesn’t, but it’s nothing personal.”
While Rubio said it would have been nice to play well against his former team, he was more focused after the game on helping Utah get on track as moves on without Rudy Gobert for at least the next month.
“There’s a lot of games left,” he said. “We just have to find that rhythm back, try to play more aggressively, and that’s it.”
Although Rubio, who shot just 1-of-7 from the field and 0-of-6 from behind the 3-point line, was pointing at being aggressive on offense, he noted that in some sense, he needs to be less aggressive on the defensive end with Gobert out.
On Monday, he often tried to go for steals instead of staying in front of his man, which put pressure on the Jazz’s interior defenders.Comment on this story
“You gotta be more solid,” he said. “I gambled too much sometimes and put my team in a tough spot...when you have Rudy, you know you can gamble more. He protects the rim. Without him, we’ve gotta be more solid, we’ve gotta stay square.”
As a whole, the Timberwolves shot nearly 53 percent from the field.
“Our offense starts with our defense, and that’s gonna be the key," he said. "When we don’t get stops, it’s hard for us to run in the open court and get easy looks, and that’s how you feel comfortable in a game. We couldn’t get any stops in the beginning and they were in rhythm, and it was tough for us to guard them and to attack.”