After quite the swoon, the Utah Jazz seem to be back on their winning ways. They had no problems whatsoever on Monday, handily defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves, 104-84.
Why the Jazz won: One week ago, the Minnesota Timberwolves came to Salt Lake City and behind a furious comeback, defeated the Utah Jazz in overtime. With memories still fresh, the Jazz seemed to play with extra motivation on Monday. From the opening tipoff, they came out with a great energy, solid ball movement and an aggressive approach from the perimeter. As a result, Utah dominated, winning each of the first three quarters. They crashed the boards, got the hustle plays and took care of the ball. Perhaps the emotion from Saturday’s tilt with Enes Kanter and the Oklahoma City Thunder carried over a bit.
Turning point: With 4:35 remaining in the first quarter, Timberwolves' big man Justin Hamilton made a jump shot, giving the team the 16-15 advantage. The rest of the quarter was all Utah, starting with an emphatic three-point play by Rudy Gobert, followed by a trey from Gordon Hayward. Over the next four minutes, the Jazz outscored Minnesota 10-0 to build an early lead. While the Timberwolves had a nice second quarter run, the game never was really in doubt for Utah.
What it means: Again, the drama surrounding Kanter’s return to EnergySolutions Arena may have served as a wakeup call of sorts for the Jazz. The past two games they have played with an extra gear that certainly was missing during the recent four-game losing streak. That lingering emotion may be short-lived, but it may have ignited a fire that could carry Utah through the remaining eight games on this season’s docket.
Grading the performance: Utah clearly was the more talented, hungrier team Monday. The Jazz had a very nice offensive outing, shooting well from the field and believe it or not, from the foul line. Filling in again for the injured Derrick Favors, Trevor Booker was terrific in his place, tallying 17 points and 13 rebounds. Gobert was posterized by Minnesota rookie sensation Andrew Wiggins, but we exacted his revenge just 34 seconds, swatting him powerfully. He added 15 points and 12 rebounds. Thanks to that duo, Utah controlled the boards. Hayward had his customary all-around night, with 22 points, six caroms, five assists and four steals. The bench also was very good.
Utah Jazz grade: A-
The Timberwolves looked young, confused at times and overmatched by their counterparts. The swarming Jazz defense caused problems all evening. They did pass the ball well, thanks to their young back court of Zach LaVine and Lorenzo Brown. While Wiggins had three brilliant dunks, the rest of his night was so-so. He combined with fellow forward Adreian Payne to shoot just 5 of 22. Even so, there are so many talented pieces in place for this franchise. The future is bright.
Minnesota Timberwolves grade: C
Three telling stats:
-Once again, the Jazz were aggressive and controlled the pace. They did what they wanted to. Utah was +12 points on 3-pointers, doubled up Minnesota on fast-break points (22-11) and was even +10 in the paint (42-32).
-Every Utah starter sported a plus-minus mark of +11 or better, led by Gobert’s +26. Conversely, each Timberwolves starter was -11 or worse, with Wiggins being a remarkable -38.
-Minnesota did assist on 21 of its 28 made field goals — 75 percent.
Up next: On Wednesday, the Jazz play another opponent they faced recently in the Denver Nuggets. Last weekend, they doled Utah a 16-point loss. Perhaps the Jazz will once again look for a little payback, with this game being on their home court. The Nuggets just claimed former Utah guard Ian Clark off of waivers.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.