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Timberwolves continue to spiral downward with 120-100 loss to Jazz

Chris Hine, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Basketball

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Timberwolves didn't have time to have a shootaround prior to their game against the Jazz on Thursday.

Instead, the Wolves were flying into Salt Lake City and getting to their hotel during the time they would normally work out and go over their game plan. That was because severe winter weather stranded them an airport for most of Wednesday in Denver and wouldn't allow them to fly until Thursday. Saunders didn't want to use the travel troubles as an excuse. Guard Tyus Jones said it was no big deal.

"I think everyone in this room played AAU at one point in their life, and this is a normal thing," Jones said. "When you're in high school you fly out the day off and go to the gym a few hours after you land."

Whether their nightmarish Wednesday played a role in their 120-100 loss is hard to tell, but this one will go into the ledger as the Wolves' 11th loss in their last 12 games, a stretch that began with a loss in Utah on Jan. 25.

The Wolves kept it close, but the Jazz never let the Wolves regain the lead after the first quarter and kept a multiple-possession lead most of the night.

Andrew Wiggins had 14 points on 6-of-17 shooting as he returned from a three-game absence from a left quad contusion. Karl-Anthony Towns squared off against another upper-tier NBA big man in Rudy Gobert and came away with 26 points and 12 rebounds, but he fouled out with 4:13 to play after committing three offensive fouls in the fourth quarter, including a flagrant-one against Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell had 24 points to lead the Jazz.

The old problem of foul trouble crept up for Towns in the first quarter that allowed Utah to establish an early lead.

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Towns had two fouls by the 5:35 mark and headed to the bench with the Wolves ahead 15-12. After Towns' second foul, which came on a free-throw rebound, the Wolves never led again. The Jazz and Wolves shot an identical 24 for 47 in the first half (51 percent), the difference being the Jazz hit four more 3-pointers and five more free throws. That gave them a 64-55 lead.

The Wolves came out in the second half and chipped away at Utah's lead with Towns back. A 9-3 spurt pulled the Wolves within 71-70. It was at that score Mitchell went to the free-throw line. He made the first and missed the second but was able to get his own rebound after the second shot, a sequence of lackadaisical basketball that caused Ryan Saunders to chuck a crumpled up piece of paper he was holding.

From there, the Jazz re-opened an eight-point lead. Towns had 14 points and five rebounds in the quarter, but Kyle Korver scored five straight points to help Utah build back its lead at 86-76 with 2:30 to play and the Jazz led 91-81 after three. The Wolves couldn't chip away at the Wolves' lead as Towns again got in foul trouble. He picked up three offensive fouls, including the flagrant on Mitchell. He fouled out just after Mitchell hit a dagger 3-pointer to put Utah up 15 with 4:25 left, and all that was left to do was run out the clock.

(c)2019 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com

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