Preview: Timberwolves vs. Jazz

The last time these two teams met, Karl-Anthony Towns recorded 19 points and 12 rebounds in a 112-103 loss.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It would seem as if a 41-point night from guard Andrew Wiggins would translate to a win for the Minnesota Timberwolves. On Friday night against Washington, though, that wasn’t the case.

Wiggins posted his second 40-point game of the season by scoring 41 against the Wizards. But as Minnesota squandered a lead after three quarters, Wiggins’ big night became irrelevant.

“We’re finding different ways to (lose),” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau told the Timberwolves Radio Network after Friday’s loss. “It’s disappointing.”

The loss in Washington, D.C., came two days after the Timberwolves suffered one of their biggest gut punches of the season.

Minnesota managed to fall behind the Philadelphia 76ers by 26 points before clawing its way back. A 3-pointer by Ricky Rubio in the final seconds seemed to guarantee overtime, but Philadelphia scored with under a second remaining to deal the Timberwolves yet another disappointing finish.

Minnesota (11-25) will now try to bounce back from its unsuccessful road trip by welcoming the Utah Jazz (22-15) on Saturday for a game at Target Center. It’s the second time the teams have met, with Utah winning the previous matchup 112-103 at Target Center.

Utah, which allows the fewest points per game in the NBA (95.3), is on a small losing streak of its own. The Jazz have dropped their last two games — both on the road — to the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors.

In Thursday’s loss, Utah’s typically stingy defense allowed Kyle Lowry to score 33 points en route to the Raptors’ 101-93 win in Toronto. DeMar DeRozan added 23 for the Raptors.

“We weren’t physical enough and it hurt us,” Utah coach Quin Snyder told the Salt Lake Tribune after the game. “We just got beat.”

Though Utah lost on Thursday, the Jazz did see the return of point guard Dante Exum, who missed the previous two weeks with tendinitis. Exum did not play in Utah’s first game against Minnesota but now gives the Jazz a bit of backcourt depth now that he’s healthy again.

“It’s just a sharp pain whenever I run or jump,” Exum told the Salt Lake Tribune. “So it was definitely limiting me playing to my full potential. That’s why I had to make the decision.”

Minnesota’s bench remains a question mark for Saturday. Guard Shabazz Muhammad missed Friday’s game because of illness, and his status for Saturday is uncertain.

Though Utah isn’t a high-scoring team — the Jazz average 99.0 points per game, third fewest in the Western Conference — Minnesota’s defense has struggled as of late. Such was the case Friday for the Timberwolves, who surrendered 112 points to the Wizards.

Thibodeau knows his team will have to be much better defensively in the second game of a back-to-back.

“The discipline, the intensity, the finishing of the defense, there’s a lot of closeouts where we were two steps in and then we don’t challenge the shot correctly,” Thibodeau told the Timberwolves Radio Network. “If you let a guy shoot, he’s going to get rhythm.”