Timberwolves fall short against Utah’s top-ranked defense
MINNEAPOLIS — Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder was asked about the key to his team's defense. Before the reporter could even finish the question, Snyder blurted out, “Rudy. Gobert.”
He was just as impactful on the offensive end against a Minnesota Timberwolves team that looks increasingly lost.
Gobert had 16 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Jazz to their third straight win, 112-103 over the Timberwolves on Monday night.
Eight of Gobert's rebounds came on the offensive end, and he made life miserable every time young Timberwolves stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns got near the paint.
“I tried to be aggressive,” Gobert said. “I think I rushed a couple times. I missed and I had to get a rebound.”
George Hill had 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Gordon Hayward scored 24 for the Jazz (10-8).
Towns had 19 points and 12 rebounds but shot 8 of 18 and struggled with foul trouble much of the night. Wiggins scored 13 points on 6-for-16 shooting. All five Wolves starters were in double figures, including Zach LaVine with 28 points.
“It's very concerning from the standpoint of you want to be making progress,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “That's the important thing. Every day make progress, make progress. We didn't make progress today.”
Hayward is still playing with a broken finger on his left hand that caused him to miss the first six games of the season. He has scored at least 20 points in four straight games to help balance Utah's stingy defense.
Shabazz Muhammad scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter, tying the game at 78 with a soaring dunk. Tyus Jones hit a 3-pointer to give Minnesota an 83-82 lead, but Utah responded with an 11-0 run and closed it out.
“Obviously, Rudy is formidable at the rim,” Snyder said. “People are looking around for him. But when he goes to block shots, that's when everybody else has to contribute on the glass.”
Jazz: Gobert had three blocks. … Derrick Favors missed his sixth straight game with a bruised left knee. … Utah outscored Minnesota 60-44 in the paint.
Timberwolves: Thibodeau started the fourth quarter with Jones at point guard over Kris Dunn, the fifth overall draft pick who has struggled of late. Jones has played the entire fourth quarter of three straight games. … LaVine also had eight rebounds and eight assists.
For the second time this season, Towns put all the blame for the loss on himself, saying he has to do more for the team to succeed.
“The more losses we keep accumulating, the more it feels like it's my fault,” Towns said. “I've got to look myself in the mirror and I've got to play better. I've got to play a level where we can't lose and help my teammates out the best I can. I didn't do that tonight. I haven't done it recently.”
The less-celebrated Kentucky product — Towns was the first overall pick last year — had quite a night. Trey Lyles scored 13 points and shot 6 of 8, including a 3-pointer and a pretty floater from just inside the free throw line, to give the Jazz a boost off the bench.
Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio entered shooting just 33.3 percent from the field. He's never been a good shooter, but an injury to his right elbow earlier in the season didn't help things. He hit four of his first five shots Monday night.
Rubio was playing so well that Thibodeau stuck with Rubio even after he picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter. He finished with 11 points and did not play in the fourth for the third straight game.
When asked if it was hard to watch the entire fourth again, Rubio replied curtly, “Yes.”
Jazz: Utah begins a three-game homestand Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets.
Timberwolves: Minnesota stays home to host the Knicks on Wednesday before heading to New York to face them in Madison Square Garden on Friday.