Kevin Love was utterly unstoppable and a depleted Jazz frontcourt fell victim to his recent offensive onslaught.
Tonight's win in Utah is probably the best overall game for Love in his NBA career. For the first time in Love's six-year NBA career, he finished with a triple-double. He becomes just the tenth player in franchise history to hit that impressive mark. Ironically enough, Tyrone Corbin (current head coach of the Utah Jazz) was the first player in Timberwolves franchise history to register a triple-double.
Without Derrick Favors, the Jazz had to rely heavily on big man Enes Kanter, who answered the call with a career-high 25 points. While Kanter had a solid outing, getting a lot of easy in-close buckets, it was Kevin Love's game that was most impressive tonight.
Love finished with 37 points, 12 rebounds & 10 assists in just 33 minutes of action. He also hit 6 threes and added a steal for good measure.
Love was great, but he also had a bit more help tonight. Each Wolves starters scored in double figures, despite this being the first time the Wolves have had to use this starting lineup of Rubio, Budinger, Brewer, Cunningham and Love. This was Budinger's fifth-straight start in place of the injured Kevin Martin and he had a great outing that saw him tie a season-high with three made threes. Those three-point shots (with two of them coming early in the first half), helped Minnesota's offense kickstart. Brewer & Love connected for a number of transition buckets. Rubio may not have been the primary playmaker tonight, but he exuded confidence and aggressiveness early that helped Minnesota build the lead.
By building a lead and keeping the starters' minutes down, the Wolves had a perfect start to this 5-game road trip. No starter played more than 36 minutes and the majority of them saw an average of 30. With the Wolves being without two starters and their primary reserve center, they had to rely a bit more on some of their deep rotational players.
That meant more minutes for the rookies. Gorgui Dieng was certainly the most impressive of the rookie trio and with him being the only true (healthy) center on the roster, it comes as no surprise that he played a career-high 22 minutes. The surprising part could be how well he performed. He finished with 8 points, 8 rebounds & 3 blocks and was efficient offensively and provided some of that rim protection the Wolves have come to know with Turiaf taking up the middle the past month.
Muhammad also saw some playing time and it was actually some meaningful minutes in the second quarter, with the game still close. He played 11 minutes and did a solid job hustling on both ends and hitting the glass. One play in particular was most impressive. He stole the ball away and tipped it to J.J. and they quickly got downcourt, Barea threw the lob and Muhammad hammered it down. It was a beauty.
The Wolves seemed to have this one in control all night long. Despite some runs by the Jazz to get the game close, Kevin Love came up time after time with big buckets to push the lead and keep the Jazz at bay.
Tonight's box score...
This is a third-straight win over Utah this season for Minnesota and they'll meet once more at the Target Center in April. This is a third-straight win for the Wolves, which ties a season-high for the team.
The Wolves not only had plenty of scorers, but they also had a number of playmakers. There were three guys that finished with at least 7 assists. The Wolves finished with 31 assists on 43 made buckets. They shot high percentages from the field and three and shook off some shaky free throw shooting thanks in large part to Love's 9-of-10.
The Wolves are hoping to get Pekovic back for tomorrow's tilt against the Blazers and potentially Kevin Martin sometime on this road trip. Tomorrow's game in Portland tips at 8pmCST, enjoy the game!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!