Utah Jazz heat up in Minnesota, knock off Timberwolves 127-116

Utah Jazz's Joe Ingles shoots the ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Minneapolis • The Jazz were cold. Minnesota is colder.

On a night when wind chills hit minus-4 degrees in Minneapolis, the Jazz found some heat in the Target Center, giving the Timberwolves their sixth straight loss, 127-116.

And the warmth came from some unlikely sources, too.

In the opening minutes, the Jazz went to Joe Ingles time and time again. Ingles, playing point guard in Mike Conley’s fourth consecutive absence due to hamstring tightness, ran pick and roll and found the Wolves doubling Rudy Gobert, which meant he was open. Ingles shot the ball more than he has at any time this year, with 14 shots in the game — relatedly, he had a season-high with points with 23.

Oh, and then the Jazz’s beleaguered bench found a way to impact the game. In Monday’s loss against OKC, the Jazz broadcast’s Subway Sub of the Game was Georges Niang with an uninspiring five-point, one-rebound performance. The pickings were easier on Wednesday: Emmanuel Mudiay played efficient, solid basketball, scoring 13 points and adding a couple of assists next to only one turnover. He also finished with a game-high plus-15.

He wasn’t alone with his success off the bench, either. Jeff Green scored 10 points and spent significant time against Andrew Wiggins, doing a nice job on the Minnesota scorer. Georges Niang hit three 3s, and his contribution was punctuated by his celebratory yells. And Ed Davis quietly did his job, too: Sure, he had two blocks, but the Minnesota bench couldn’t find a way to score consistently at the rim.

“I thought they competed, as much as anything,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “There was a lot of emotion.”

Perhaps the other ballhandlers finding success allowed Donovan Mitchell to keep his energy levels high. For the game, he finished with 30 points, shooting an efficient 13 of 20 from the field.

Tied at 59-59 at halftime, the game could have gone either way. The Jazz had come out of the break stagnant before. This time, though, they came out firing.

The Jazz hit 8 of 13 3-point shots in the quarter, moving the ball and reigniting “the blender.” While the Jazz during their recent struggles have been relatively stagnant, everything looked crisper than usual: more passes, more players touching the ball. Utah drove, touched the paint, and then found open shooters everywhere on the floor.

“We moved the ball, and we made the shots,” Gobert said. “I don’t know how many passes we had every possession, but that was the best game we had moving the ball like that. It’s tough to guard.”

Moving the ball has other benefits, too: “You saw the guys on the bench screaming and yelling during the game,” Mitchell pointed out. “It’s a lot of fun when we play that way.”

Gobert won the matchup against Minnesota star big man Karl-Anthony Towns. While Towns still scored 21 and had 11 rebounds, Gobert forced five turnovers. And Gobert scored 20 of his own, adding 16 rebounds, including seven offensive ones. He also added two steals and two blocks.

Among Jazz starters, only Bojan Bogdanovic struggled, scoring only 14, while adding six turnovers as he struggled to hold onto the ball.

For the Timberwolves, Jeff Teague led the Timberwolves with 32 points off the bench; he caught fire from deep late in the first half.

But in the end, the game felt like a proof of concept, albeit against poor defensive opposition. When the Jazz play at their best, everyone can contribute, and the offense can really hum.

Now, it’s about doing it consistently.

“We trusted one another. That was nice to see, but it’s one game,” Mitchell said. “Now we have to do it on a consistent basis. It’s a good start.”