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Instant analysis: Utah Jazz drop home opener to Minnesota Timberwolves

Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale (23) and Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (11) fight over the ball in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020.
Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale (23) and Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (11) fight over the ball in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz dropped their home opener to the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-111 on Saturday in a pretty lackluster performance.

High notes

  • When the Jazz were spiraling and the Timberwolves were getting everything they wanted, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson stepped up to the plate and wouldn’t let the Jazz go down without a fight. The two combined for 43 in the loss.
  • There were quite a few things not to like about the opening quarter entire game from the Jazz, but Donovan Mitchell’s passing was something to be happy about (until he started turning the ball over). Midway through the first quarter Mitchell drove into the lane, euro-stepped, and sent a speedy pass to Joe Ingles in the right corner and Ingles hit the trey.
  • Royce O’Neale was an overall bright spot with the effort he showed against Minnesota. He showed patience on offense and showed off a little with a nifty up-and-under move at one point. But it was his rebounding and hustle after the ball and not quitting on plays that stood out.
  • The Timberwolves barely let Mitchell inbound the ball without having someone pick him up full court. They clearly wanted to keep someone close to him and try to cut him off from being effective as much as possible, and the plan worked through most of the game. Obviously not a high note for the Jazz but a well executed plan is a well executed plan no matter where it comes from.
  • Anthony Edwards is the real deal. I wouldn’t be the only person who had some skepticism about Edwards through the draft process and what his fit would be like with the Timberwolves, but he’s the kind of player who could seemingly fit in anywhere. He’s a bully and strong and has great footwork and nice touch.

Low notes

  • Yeesh. Where do I begin?
  • Bad decision-making seemed to rule the day for the Jazz. From unnecessary fouls, to bad passes, ill-advised shots and a lack of effort in transition, the Jazz did not look like they did in Portland a few days ago and certainly didn’t look like this was just the second game of the season. They looked tired and slow.
  • After the Jazz gave up just 11 turnovers in their first game of the season against the Portland Trail Blazers, they coughed up 12 turnovers in just the first half alone against the Timberwolves, giving Minnesota a ton of rhythm in transition.
  • The Jazz’s best scorers were off in a bad way and were missing even some of the easiest shots, and to make matters worse they weren’t that impactful on the defensive side either.
  • Mitchell had a couple of big 3s in the final couple of minutes, but it was too little too late. He finished the night just 6-of-23 from the field and didn’t seem to pressure the ball on defense in a way that even remotely affected the Timberwolves.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic was just 3-of-16 from the field and took just five 3s. It wasn’t so much how many shots he took, but rather his shot selection. Even when he got the ball right at the basket, he missed a layup in the final minutes of the game. Bogdanovic is never someone that the Jazz are going to rely on for defensive pressure, but the Timberwolves made him look horrible on that end.
  • The loss to the Timberwolves showed just what can happen on a poor shooting night if the Jazz rely too heavily on the 3-ball. They finished the night shooting just 29.4% from deep.

Flat notes

  • The Jazz are one of the few NBA teams that are allowing a limited number of fans into the arena to start the season and despite no less than seven announcements throughout the game by the PA announcer that masks should be worn over the mouth and nose at all times unless they are actively eating, there were many that did not follow those rules. There were Vivint Arena employees that would tell people to put their mask on correctly when they had it just over their mouth or not on at all, but it was impossible for them to police every person in the building. It was incredibly distracting and made things uneasy seeing so many people in one place and knowing that COVID-19 numbers are still not under control in Utah.

The PA announcer even read a statement at one point reminding fans that no matter what precautions and protocols are in place that there is no way to eliminate risk of exposure to the virus in the arena.

I know that the fans want to be back and that the Jazz want people in the building and it might be able to work comfortably if you could guarantee that everyone would follow directions, but that’s not what happened on Saturday and it didn’t come across well when fans were shown on the broadcast without their masks on or not on properly.