Minneapolis • With no Jimmy Butler and no Jeff Teague on Wednesday night, the Timberwolves appeared to be short-handed going up against the Jazz.
Apparently nobody told Derrick Rose.
The former MVP and onetime brief Jazz acquisition erupted for a career-high 50 points Wednesday at the Target Center, as Minnesota ended Utah’s three-game winning streak with a 128-125 victory.
Adding injury to insult, Donovan Mitchell left the game in the key final minutes with right hamstring tightness. He will be re-evaluated Thursday.
While Rose was clutch late, scoring 34 of his points after halftime, the Jazz said the game may have actually been determined early, when their lack of perimeter containment allowed the Wolves to get rolling from the outset.
“We gotta start better. We can look at the last quarter, the last minute, but we gave them confidence in the first quarter and then we were trailing the whole game,” said center Rudy Gobert. “It’s hard to win a basketball game against a team that has a lot of confidence. We gave them confidence. That’s the big takeaway.”
Indeed, Minnesota shot 59.1 percent in the first quarter to lead 32-25. The Wolves were hitting 56.5 percent from the field, and 57.1 percent from deep to take a 65-56 halftime advantage. (They finished the game making 58.1 percent of their shots and 48 percent of their 3s.)
Rose, who was technically a member of Utah’s roster as part of last year’s Jae Crowder trade, though he never suited up before being waived days later, turned in a vintage performance.
Despite years of serious injury issues, he looked deft and elusive, snaking to the rim for lay-ins; beating his man off the dribble and stopping on a dime for midrange pull-ups; nailing his open looks from beyond the arc.
He had 16 points at the break, and hadn’t done anything yet.
“He had it going, he was confident. He was hitting pull-up jumpers, he was confident getting into the paint,” Crowder noted. “We just gotta find a way — good teams always find a way to win games like this. We’re building, we’re trying, and we got a lot more games to go. … We have to find a way somehow.”
While Rose continued his one-man show in the third quarter — hitting 9 of 11 shots and scoring 19 points — the Jazz started clawing back.
Mitchell himself began to heat up, scoring 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the quarter. More importantly, the Jazz started turning the other Wolves into bystanders.
The defensive intensity picked up, guys were able to better stick with their man, rotations improved.
The Jazz’s offense followed suit, with the ball going high and inside for lobs to Gobert (who finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds), and moving crisply around the perimeter for open 3s (the Jazz went 13 of 30 from deep).
When Dante Exum and Crowder hit back-to-back 3s to open the final quarter, the Jazz took a 102-101 lead.
“We got stops. We didn’t get stops the whole game. Whenever we started to get stops, we got some life,” Gobert said. “You could feel it — the ball started moving, we stopped turning it over, and we scored pretty easily. The offense was pretty good tonight — we just gotta be able to get stops.”
Once again, though, Rose rendered them unable to do so. After failing to score for the first 41/2 minutes of the fourth, he finally broke through with six straight, tying the game.
The teams kept trading body blows down the stretch — there were eight ties and eight lead changes in the fourth quarter alone.
Rose ultimately made the difference. Exum stuck with him well on a drive, but a stop and reverse pivot got him a clean look and the Wolves a 125-123 lead with 30 seconds left. His two free throws with 13.8 seconds to go were points 49 and 50, and made it 128-125.
“We gave him the opportunity to have that kind of night, and then he was feeling great. He was feeling great,” Gobert said. “And when you start feeling great, you get some extra extra energy, some extra adrenaline, you make amazing plays, and that’s what he did the whole game.”
Still, the Jazz had three final chances. Crowder took the inbound pass out of the timeout and got a good look at a 3. An offensive rebound gave Joe Ingles a shot. After yet another offensive rebound, Crowder had the ball, passed up an open look, and swung it to Exum in the corner, whose last-gasp attempt was deflected just enough — by Rose, naturally — to fall short as time expired.
It was a brutal ending for the Jazz. But again, it was their rough beginning and subpar defense that paved the way, according to coach Quin Snyder.
“The first part of the game, we weren’t very efficient, we gave them open shots, we turned the ball over, and they took advantage of it,” he said. “… We have to compete collectively. We can’t compete as individuals — that’s when you see breakdowns. We talked about how we want to make our mark with our defense, and tonight we weren’t able to do that. We weren’t able to get stops. That’s what cost us the game.”
TIMBERWOLVES 128, JAZZ 125
• Derrick Rose scores a career-high 50 points as Minnesota ends Utah’s three-game winning streak in the finale of its road trip.
• Donovan Mitchell overcomes a 2-for-11 first half shooting effort to score 26 points, but sits out the game’s crucial final minutes with right hamstring tightness.
• Centers Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns go back and forth all night, with the former totaling 22 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks, and the latter getting 28 points, 15 rebounds, and 2 blocks.