Gobert tames KAT, Jazz hand Timberwolves a 103-95 loss

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) drives on Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton- King)

Minneapolis • Bojan Bogdanovic scored 30. Donovan Mitchell, 26.

But when you talked to the Jazz after their 103-95 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, one man’s name was on the tip of everyone’s tongue: Rudy Gobert.

Gobert’s defensive performance on Wednesday night spurred the Jazz to a bounceback victory, as Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns was limited to only 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting. A game after he scored 29 against the Jazz, setting a career high in threes with seven, Towns’ roar became a purr.

“(Gobert) did his thing. You know, he’s really locked in. He was locked in last game too, obviously, but at the end of the day, they’re both All-Star players,” Mitchell said. “I think KAT [Karl-Anthony Towns] got the better of him last game, but he came back and responded like a competitor would and we knew he would. (I’m) proud of him.”

Perhaps most impressive was Gobert’s ability to corral Towns and still defend the rim: He had a season-high five blocks as well.

For a moment, though, it looked like Gobert’s defensive performance wouldn’t be enough. The Timberwolves went on a 15-1 run spanning the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, thanks to a Jazz bench unit that once again struggled mightily. Minnesota had a six-point lead, and it looked like the Jazz could be in line for their third straight loss.

Then, everything changed. The 10-0 run that followed was highlighted by Gobert’s Eurostep finish in transition, one that also drew a Towns foul. On a night when Gobert was at his Defensive Player of the Year best, he was also displaying the growth in his offensive game.

The run seemed to open the shooting floodgates for the Jazz. Mitchell hit a 3-pointer with seven minutes left, then another two minutes later. With three minutes left, Bogdanovic, Conley and Mitchell hit threes on three consecutive possessions, basically ending the contest.

“I thought we touched it a little bit tonight with the way we can play,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “I thought our guys responded when the game got close and at the end I thought Mike [Conley] controlled the game. When he came back in, he had a presence and did a little bit of everything.”

Bogdanovic’s 30 once again revealed the different ways he can score for the Jazz: Whether it’s in pick and roll, catch and shoot, or in transition, Bogdanovic can seemingly do it all on the offensive end. It opens things up for his teammates: In an eight-point game, Bogdanovic ended up with a plus-38 in his 36:06 on the court.

Of course, that meant that the other 11:54 went exceptionally badly; the Jazz lost those nearly 12 minutes by 30 points. Joe Ingles struggled to get going from the floor and passed up several open shots, forcing Snyder to talk to him about the issue at one timeout. Emmanuel Mudiay shot just one for seven from the field. Dante Exum played in the first half but not in the second, when Georges Niang played the role of last player off the bench. Neither stood out.

Andrew Wiggins led the Wolves with 22 points, though it took him 24 shots to do so. Royce O’Neale did a good defensive job on Wiggins, who has played much better this season, Wednesday night notwithstanding.

Mitchell had a bounceback game with his 26 points, albeit on 24 shots of his own. After a rough shooting start, he turned it on in the fourth quarter, with perhaps some help from a courtside Minnesota fan who kept up a conversation with the Jazz guard throughout the game.

“He was just saying something along the lines of I’m not a good basketball player,” Mitchell said. “I said, ‘Just wait, eventually it’ll happen.’”

It did. Mitchell got his revenge, and so did the Jazz.