The Jazz got Gordon Hayward back after a five-game absence due to a hip injury and he looked as though he didn't miss a beat. He was definitely the best player for Utah tonight. The Jazz were without Derrick Favors who is now nursing a hip injury of his own. Enes Kanter got the start at center in his place.
Favors couldn't stop Nikola Pekovic on Saturday and Enes Kanter didn't have much luck himself. The Wolves went to Pek early and often and found plenty of success. With no Favors, rookie Rudy Gobert saw some more court time and the 7'2" Frenchmen was certainly impressive--blocking a lot of shots and altering plenty more.
Despite some solid play from Hayward, Burks & the rookie Gobert, the Jazz simply couldn't keep up with Minnesota's high octane offense and found themselves struggling from the field in the early going. After one quarter they were shooting under 35% from the field and it took them nearly 8 minutes to break into double digits. However, once they did, the Jazz began to find their shot and got themselves back in the game.
This was a game of runs and each time the Jazz would pull within 8-12 points the Wolves would go on another run to put the game out of reach once again. There was one instance in the third quarter when Utah cut the lead to just 8 points and I felt as though I looked away from my TV for maybe 30 seconds and the next thing I knew the Wolves were up by 21. They had rattled off 11 straight points in under two minutes and from that point on we knew the Wolves were well on their way to a second-straight win.
These last two matchups vs. Utah have been great for a team that has been lacking confidence and has been unable to get into any kind of rhythm that lead to consecutive wins. Minnesota's next three opponents are much more talented than the lowly Jazz squad they've faced in their last two outings. The Wolves will play the Warriors on Friday promptly followed by the Blazers on Saturday and the Chicago Bulls on Monday. All three of those games will be televised nationally on NBA TV.
The hope is that the momentum from these last two wins will carry over and the Wolves can keep this hot streak going.
Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
Ricky Rubio registered his 7th points-assists double-double of the season along with 5 steals to boot. Rubio & Love combined to finish with 21 of Minnesota's 31 assists.
J.J. Barea continued his recent hot streak from downtown by hitting 3-of-5 from deep and finishing with 15 points. This 15-point outing is his highest since the 17 he scored vs. the Pelicans on New Year's Day.
The Wolves lost two of their shooting guards as both left the court holding towels to their bloody injuries. Alexey Shved was hit in the face by Rudy Gobert at the end of the first quarter. As the buzzer sounded at the end of the quarter, Shved walked to center court to confront the refs who didn't call any fouls and blood poured from his nose. He sat on the bench for a bit, but retreated to the locker room with the head trainer. News came just before halftime that he had broken his nose and wouldn't return. Then, in the third quarter, Kevin Martin got tangled up with Alec Burks when K-Mart went for a steal. He ended up cutting his finger and again the blood began to pour. He left the court and with the Wolves holding a comfortable lead, he didn't return. It remains to be seen if either will miss any time--if Martin will need stitches or if Shved will be wearing a mask come Friday.
The Wolves are back in action vs. the Warriors at Oracle Arena on Friday night. It will be a late 9:30pmCST start.