The NBA standings indicate, midway through the season, there is a modest seven-game difference between the Jazz and Minnesota.
The last 72 hours suggest otherwise.
For the second straight game, the Timberwolves overwhelmed Utah on Tuesday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
This time, Kevin Love and Corey Brewer scored 19 points and Minnesota jumped on the Jazz from the beginning en route to a 112-97 victory.
The Timberwolves trailed only once, 4-2, and led by as many as 26 points.
It was almost as lopsided as Minnesota’s 98-72 win on Saturday night at Target Center, where the Wolves led by as many as 36 points and the Jazz shot a franchise-low 28.8 percent.
Obviously, there wasn’t much good news for the Jazz in the rematch, outside of Gordon Hayward’s return from a five-game absence due to a hip flexor injury.
He finished with 27 points, five rebounds and five assists, but it wasn’t nearly enough to prevent the Jazz from losing for the third time in four games.
“Minnesota came out again tonight with a good game plan,” said Jazz rookie point guard Trey Burke, who finished with nine points and five assists.
“They made shots. We still didn’t shoot the way we’re capable of shooting and we had a lot of breakdowns on the defensive end, including me. We just have to learn from our mistakes.”
The Jazz played without center Derrick Favors, who missed the game because of an abductor strain.
Asked if Utah missed him against Minnesota’s physical frontcourt, which was once again led by Nikola Pekovic and Love, Burke nodded.
“A lot, a lot,” he said. “[Favors] is a really important defensive presence down there ... and they have two really good bigs. It’s tough to stop them down there because they are really talented.”
Minnesota took control of this game in the opening seven minutes. The Jazz converted only three of their first 16 possessions and quickly fell behind, 19-6.
“They played with more energy at the beginning of the game,” said coach Tyrone Corbin. “Give them credit.”
With Favors sidelined and Enes Kanter in early foul trouble, rookie center Gobert gave Utah a lift in the second quarter with three quick blocked shots.
Because of their defense, the Jazz stayed in the game at halftime, when they trailed, 53-49.
In the third quarter, Hayward converted a three-point play and buried a three-point shot to help the Jazz get closer.
It was 58-47 before Minnesota started a decisive 10-0 run on Ricky Rubio’s three-pointer.
In the final minute of the quarter, the Timberwolves’ lead ballooned to 84-56 when J.J. Barea hit another three against a scattered Jazz defense.
“They made a couple of shots,” Corbin said. “… I thought we fought better in third third quarter. Our execution was better. But we couldn’t get over the hump.”
Said Hayward: “There were several times when I felt we were making a run and then they hit a big shot. Barea hit a few daggers. ... We just didn’t get the stops we needed. They were too effective offensively.”
The Jazz have three days to recover from the back-to-back beatings by the Timberwolves. They don’t play again until Saturday night against Washington.
“This team has been resilient all year,” Corbin said. “We’ll continue to work and find ways to get better.”