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Analysis: Jazz talent overwhelms shorthanded Timberwolves

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, wearing blue, dunks the ball past Minnesota Timberwolves defenders
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, center, dunks the ball past Minnesota Timberwolves defenders during an NBA game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021.
Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz beat a shorthanded Minnesota Timberwolves squad, 128-116, on Thursday night at Vivint Arena.

High Notes

  • It was an absolute dunk fest in Vivint with Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside benefitting from a good amount of lobs and some shoddy Minnesota defense, but they weren’t the only ones. Royce O’Neale had a nice dunk in transition that brought the oohs and awes of fans, but the dunk of the night was an emphatic poster from Jordan Clarkson that injected energy into the building and had the whole bench on their feet.

“Wow. I told him I thought his shot was going to get blocked. I thought he was going to put it up there and then they were going to meet him at the top block it. But you know, every once in a while J.C. reminds you of his younger days back in L.A. when he was dunking on everybody, and that was impressive. That was impressive, and against two guys that can get up to, that was definitely impressive.” —Donovan Mitchell

  • It was an offensive team effort for the Jazz who had different guys go through hot streaks. Early on it was Donovan Mitchell playing with speed and showing off his finishing skills, later it was the bigs who feasted inside, then Bojan Bogdanovic got hot in the third quarter along with Joe Ingles, then Mike Conley made some really big buckets in the fourth quarter to help put the game out of reach. The Jazz closed out the night with six players scoring in double figures, led by Mitchell’s 28 points.
  • Clarkson finished with just five points, his second lowest scoring output of the season, but he finished the night with seven assists and took advantage of the Timberwolves trying to trap him and run him off the 3-point line and playing close in the pick-and-roll.
    “He was incredibly efficient. It just shows you that he’s talented. When he comes in the game, he provides us such a lift with his ability to score, and oftentimes he can go on a run on his own. But in games like tonight, when they’re aggressive in the pick-and-roll the way they were for him to get off the ball ... says a lot.” —Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
  • Mitchell has talked a few times about how being hurt during last year’s playoffs taught him a lot about playing on the ground and using his athleticism in a different way and I think that it’s clear he’s using those lessons this season. He doesn’t have to leap and jump hard in traffic to make space for himself and he’s so crafty with the ball. It seems like sometimes teams aren’t expecting him to be such a playmaker and he can make teams pay for that. He also finished with seven assists.

Low Notes

  • The Jazz played with their food a little too much on Thursday night. They let the Timberwolves hang around for quite a while. It’s not the nicest thing to say, but the Wolves were pretty much playing with their deep bench and a complement of G League players outside of a couple rotational guys and the Jazz should have been able to bulldoze them. They could have taken care of business a lot earlier if they’d played better defense, but they seemed a little too relaxed on that side.
    “It was just about being poised and calm throughout. Any run that they might have, and especially late in the game, it was just taking our time, offensively and defensively, knowing that we’re going to rely on what we do and try to be great at what we do and and close out the game.” — Mike Conley
  • Everyone could have used a little pep in their defensive step, but it was clearly not a great night on that end for Whiteside, who seemed a little lost on Thursday. He let guys slip past him and kind of ended up in a position where he was guarding nobody a few too many times.

Flat Notes

  • The T-Wolves had seven players in the league’s health and safety protocol, including Karl-Anthony Towns, Patrick Beverley and Anthony Edwards. Not only is it discouraging to watch games with so much of the league dealing with COVID-19 running through the NBA, but it’s also not really useful from an analysis perspective. The players can use every cliche they want to and talk about how you have to respect every opponent no matter who is playing, but that’s just not true. The Jazz were a better team with a full roster on Thursday night and the Wolves were playing with a roster held together with scotch tape.