We just kept playing. This is a good team. —Jazz center Rudy Gobert
SALT LAKE CITY — We talkin’ ‘bout practice. Yeah, practice.
With three days off after Monday’s home loss to Houston, the Utah Jazz were able to get in plenty of practice in between games.
They watched, listened and learned from their mistakes then executed against the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday to win a chippy, 116-108 game, despite turning the ball over 19 times.
Tempers flared, guys were tossed and the fans went wild in Vivint Arena with the home team coming out on time.
Since the All-Star break, the Jazz sit amongst the league leaders in turnovers, but desperately needed a victory to remain in the Western Conference playoff hunt.
Utah improved to 2-2 to start the second half of the season but remain in 10th place on the standings.
Rudy Gobert led the way with a season-high 26 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks, while rookie Donovan Mitchell posted nine of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to go along with four rebounds. Mitchell’s late 3-pointer with 50.8 ticks remaining gave the Jazz a comfortable 12-point edge and propelled them to close out the game in front of a national audience on ESPN.
“We just kept playing,” Gobert said. “This is a good team.”
The Timberwolves were playing without injured All-Star Jimmy Butler for the fourth straight game after recently undergoing meniscus surgery on his right knee. He remains out indefinitely, but was engaged in the heated action, even tweeting out for the first time in a while during the game as sparks started to fly.
“haven’t used Twitter in years,” Butler wrote. “But yeah Jeff that’s what I like to see. Rubio getting up quick for no reason.”
“Jae get away from my coach,” he added. “You don’t want no smoke either”
In addition to losing Butler, the Timberwolves were also forced to play without their other All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns, who was ejected with 23.4 seconds remaining in the second quarter after being hit with his second technical foul. He jawed with the referees after scoring a low post bucket. He received his first technical foul just 36.6 seconds earlier in the same quarter for doing the same thing.
Fans cheered as he walked to the locker room with Ray Charles’ hit song “Hit the Road Jack” blasting on the speakers. Utah would enter the break with a 56-45 lead after closing the first half on a 20-6 run.
Timberwolves floor general Jeff Teague was also ejected in the fourth quarter for a Flagrant 2 foul after taking a cheap shot at Ricky Rubio that sent the former Minnesota star sliding down the sidelines.
Teague was booed off the court with 5:20 remaining but it wouldn’t stop there as Jae Crowder and Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau were hit with double technical fouls right after that for jawing at each other.
Crowder would eventually get ejected for arguing with refs in the final 45.3 seconds after posting 15 points and three rebounds off the bench with his father and former Jazzman Corey Crowder cheering from the stands.
He also responded to Butler's tweet after the game by writing, "I DONT TWITTER BEEF ILL LEAVE THAT TO U.. BUT U GOT MY PHONE NUMBER AND KNOW MY HOME ADDRESS..!! THE REST CAN BE HISTORY”
But afterwards in the locker room, he laughed off the exchange as both are former Marquette University stars.
“He’s a competitor, he’s a trash talker and all of the above and he wishes he was out there competing in a game like that,” Crowder said. “That’s what’s probably eating him up the most is that he wish he was on the court fighting with his guys but that’s my guy.”
Utah was 0-2 against Minnesota entering the game as Raul Neto also returned from a three-game absence with a right ankle sprain.
Andrew Wiggins led the Timberwolves with 27 points while Teague added 25 points and four rebounds before leaving the game. Both teams shot over 51 percent from the field.
The Jazz won’t get much time to practice for the next game, as they’re right back on the road to face the Sacramento Kings Saturday.