Although the Utah Jazz have boasted the NBA’s best defense for much of the last month, they were unable to lock down against its most dynamic offense.
They could recapture that defensive focus Monday night when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves, whom the Jazz have had little trouble against this season.
Utah (31-38) had allowed 88 or fewer points in 11 of 12 games before falling 106-91 to league-leading Golden State on Saturday. The Jazz’s 81.7 points allowed per game led the NBA and were nearly nine fewer than second-best Washington (90.3) in that span.
The Jazz forced an average of 18.2 turnovers and allowed those 12 opponents to hit 39.6 percent from the field before running into a wall against the Warriors, who shot 48.7 percent and fell just shy of their NBA-best scoring average (109.8) coming in.
"When a team runs as hard at every position and every possession (as Golden State), that makes it difficult," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. "We knew that going in, but it’s just a little different level.
"It’s one of those games where you benefit from playing in it."
Gordon Hayward posted his fourth-worst shooting night of the season with a 3-for-13 effort, leaving the offense to Derrick Favors and Trey Burke, who combined for 41 points.
"I think we had a chance to win the game," Burke said. "I think we all felt like that, but it’s a learning experience for us."
Burke has averaged 17.0 points over Utah’s last three contests, two of which resulted in losses, following a six-game winning streak March 6-16.
Burke, who was drafted by the Timberwolves (15-54) then traded for Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, can put Utah back into the win column with a third impressive performance this season against Minnesota.
He and Hayward had 26 points apiece in a 100-94 win over the Timberwolves on Dec. 30, then Burke scored a game-high 28 in a 101-89 victory at Minnesota on Jan. 3.
"He’d be first team all-league if he played against us all the time," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said of Burke following the most recent meeting. "Maybe I should’ve drafted him based on how he’s played against us."
The Timberwolves fell to Charlotte 109-98 on Sunday for their seventh loss in eight games, beating only league-worst New York in that time. Minnesota owns the second-worst record in the NBA, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Knicks.
Saturday’s loss featured one of Minnesota’s better shooting efforts at 55.4 percent, but the Wolves were undone by a minus-10 rebounding margin.
"It’s one of those things you play with a lot of energy in the first half, the worst thing that happens, you go into halftime you get a tendency to all of a sudden sit down and you realized, ‘Geez, I’m really tired,’" Saunders said. "We didn’t come out with that same energy, the same pace."
They could again struggle on the boards against the Jazz, whose plus-4.6 rebounding margin per game ranks second-best in the NBA. They outrebounded the Timberwolves 43-34 and 47-37 in their two earlier matchups.
Andrew Wiggins averaged 20.5 points over those two contests and has scored in double figures in 16 straight. He leads all rookies with 15.8 points per game.