Towns scores game-high 26, Wolves fall to Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY — When Donovan Mitchell lifted off for the baseline dunk that put the exclamation point on Utah’s win over Minnesota, he didn’t even know if he was going to get above the rim.
“My legs were kind of heavy on that one and I was surprised it went in, to be honest,” said Mitchell, who scored 24 points as the Jazz beat the Timberwolves 120-100 on Thursday night.
Both teams got winded, but the Jazz got determined and defensive-minded when Minnesota trimmed their lead to one in the third quarter.
“Once you play some defense, it’ll lead to offense and change the whole game,” said Jae Crowder, who had 18 points. “We were able to get stops, get out and run and open up the whole court while frustrating those guys.”
Derrick Favors had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Ruby Gobert contributed 10 points and 13 boards for the Jazz, who played Wednesday night but didn’t have nearly the travel adventures that beset Minnesota.
The Timberwolves didn’t arrive in Salt Lake City until Thursday morning due to a severe snowstorm in Denver that prevented the team from flying. The team showed up for its charter flight a little after 10 a.m. on Wednesday but was stranded at the airport for nearly 10 hours because of high winds before returning to the hotel.
Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 26 points, said the Timberwolves tried to summon energy but admitted, “We knew coming in here the odds were going to be stacked against us. But we’re professionals so we got to go out there and get the job done.”
Mitchell converted his scintillating drive and dunk on the baseline and then a tough lay-in from the right angle. The game was within single digits most of the way, but the Jazz led by 24 in the closing minutes as the Timberwolves ran out of steam.
The Jazz improved to 17-1 when Mitchell shoots at least 45 percent from the field and has at least five assists (he had six).
Utah claimed the season series 3-1 and moved into a tie for sixth in the tight Western Conference, but it wasn’t really decided until the end.
Towns had 14 in the third quarter as the Timberwolves drew within 71-70.
“For that one instance in the third, we found a way to bring it all together,” Towns said. “We need to do that for 48 minutes.”
Utah finished the period on a scoring burst and led 91-81 entering the fourth on a rare dunk by Joe Ingles.
Andrew Wiggins scored 14 points but shot 6 of 17. Tyus Jones had 12 points and nine assists for the Wolves.
JAZZ OWNER SETS TONE
Jazz owner Gail Miller released a statement and spoke to the crowd prior to the game to address an encounter between Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook and a fan Tuesday. Utah permanently banned the fan from all arena events, and Westbrook was fined $25,000 by the league.
Miller, who has owned the team for 34 years with her late husband Larry, implored the crowd to do better and said, “We are not a racist community.”
She exhorted fans to enjoy the competition and cheer the Jazz as loudly as ever but cautioned, “No one wins when respect goes away.”
Players from both teams listened intently and applauded the speech.
“To have your owner to be so forward and so out there and back us the way she did, and back Russell … that’s amazing,” Mitchell said. “That’s the incredible thing about the NBA, because, as we all know, all sports aren’t like that.”
Timberwolves: Derrick Rose (elbow), Jeff Teague (foot), Luol Deng (Achilles) and Robert Covington (knee) all missed the game for Minnesota. … Towns caught Mitchell in the back of the head during a scramble for a rebound and received a Flagrant 1 foul. … The Timberwolves went 5 for 24 on 3-point attempts.
Jazz: Dante Exum, who missed 25 games with an ankle issue and only returned Monday, left the game after three minutes with knee soreness. … Utah outrebounded Minnesota 49-38. … The Jazz had 30 assists on their 44 field goals. “We moved the ball, that’s what it was,” Crowder said.
Timberwolves: Visit Houston on Sunday.
Jazz: Host Brooklyn on Saturday.