SALT LAKE CITY — By halftime of the Utah Jazz’s matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night at Vivint Arena, it appeared the Jazz might be able to pull away quickly once play resumed.
Utah only led by nine points, but had scored 64 through the first two quarters as the Timberwolves looked rather disinterested in playing defense. Additionally, the home team was dominating inside, as it had eight more points in the paint, seven more rebounds and three more blocks.
Over the first four minutes of the third quarter, however, Minnesota scored 15 points as the Jazz, who to be sure weren’t great defensively in the first half, became even worse on that end of the floor and then couldn’t get a bucket on offense.
With the score 71-70 in Utah’s favor at the 7:59 mark, head coach Quin Snyder called timeout, and suddenly the contest turned.
The Jazz scored the next eight points of the game and outscored the Timberwolves 20-11 through the rest of the quarter to bring a 10-point advantage into the final frame. Utah then dominated the final six minutes to ultimately cruise to a 120-100 victory.
“We talked about it in the timeout,” said forward Jae Crowder, who scored eight of his 18 points of the night during the third-quarter run. “We just needed to get some stops and get out and run, stop playing against their set defense as much as we were to that point. We just wanted to get some stops and get out and run and open the court up a little bit.”
In Snyder’s eyes, the run was about making it more difficult for Minnesota to get those easy transition buckets the Jazz were themselves looking for.
“We added a little juice, and then scoring on the other end, it helps where a team has to play against a set defense instead of getting out in transition,” he said.
With its second win in as many nights, Utah moved into a tie for sixth in the Western Conference standings with the San Antonio Spurs, a half-game up on the LA Clippers and 2.5 back of the Oklahoma City Thunder for fifth after the Thunder lost to the Indiana Pacers by two on Thursday night.
Donovan Mitchell paced the Jazz with 24 points, nine of which came after he was on the receiving end of a swipe from Minnesota big man Karl-Anthony Towns with 5:20 remaining in the game, which resulted in a Flagrant 1 foul.
Towns, who led all scorers with 26 points, fouled out just over a minute later. The Timberwolves wound up scoring just 19 points in the fourth quarter. Combined with the last eight minutes of the third, they scored only 30 over the final 20 minutes of the contest.
“We just have to come out with that mindset every night,” Mitchell said of the second-half defense. “We kind of got away from that in Memphis. We had it in New Orleans, got away from it in Memphis. I think it’s a little bit of a wakeup call. Little bit of a wakeup call. We got right back into it and I think we just have to continue this same mindset on defense and not let it falter with these upcoming games.”Comment on this story
In addition to Mitchell and Crowder, Derrick Favors, Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert also finished in double figures for Utah, while Andrew Wiggins, Tyus Jones and Dario Saric joined Towns in that club for an injury-riddled Minnesota team that dropped its second straight game.
Up next for the Jazz is a Saturday night home game against the Brooklyn Nets before a four-game road trip against some of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.
The 36-34 Nets entered Friday clinging to a half-game advantage for the sixth playoff spot in the East.