Towns, Butler lead Timberwolves past Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY — Minnesota is quickly turning into an offensive juggernaut.
The Timberwolves have no trouble imposing their will on offense. They demonstrated that ability again in a 109-98 win over the Utah Jazz on Monday night. Minnesota owned the paint and scorched the nets from the perimeter to score more than 100 points for a team-record 12th straight game.
Karl-Anthony Towns led the way, scoring a team-high 24 points and collecting a team-high 13 rebounds. It helped Towns become just the second NBA player after Dwight Howard to score 3,000 points and collect 2,000 rebounds before his 22nd birthday.
“I take what the defense gives me,” Towns said. “We have sets and our sets have me in different spots and I just try to be as efficient as possible.”
Towns wasn’t the only Timberwolves starter to overwhelm Utah. Jimmy Butler added 21 points and 10 assists. Taj Gibson also finished with a double-double for Minnesota, adding 15 points and 10 rebounds. Jeff Teague chipped in 22 points.
Minnesota (8-5) snapped a two-game losing streak by shooting 52.1 percent (37 of 71) from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range.
Donovan Mitchell scored 24 points and Rodney Hood added 16 points to lead the Jazz. Utah (6-8) lost for the fourth time in its last five games on its home floor and fell to 1-1 since Rudy Gobert suffered a right tibia contusion.
“With Rudy out of the game, we become a different team defensively,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “That rim protection is something that factors into a lot of things we do. ... There’s needs to be an awareness that with him not out there, we’re doing a few things differently to protect the paint.
Poor shooting and equally poor interior defense plagued the Jazz during the first quarter. Utah shot just 6 of 21 from the field and allowed a flurry of dunks and layups on the other end.
Minnesota wasted no time building a commanding lead. The Timberwolves opened the game on a 15-3 run. Towns capped it with a dunk and then a steal that he fed to Andrew Wiggins for a layup. They eventually surged to a 19-point lead, going up 31-12 on a three-point play from Gibson with 58.9 seconds left in the quarter.
“We’re a grind-it-out team that has to work defensively and offensively,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes our offense isn’t going to be there and we have to be ready to go right from the gate.”
Utah saw some improvement on the offensive end in the second quarter. Hood drilled back-to-back 3-pointers and Thabo Sefolosha banked in a floater to cut Minnesota’s lead to 54-42 in the final minute before halftime.
It didn’t get much better for the Jazz in the second half. The Timberwolves shot a blistering 68.8 percent (11 of 16) in the third quarter and connected on all four 3-pointers they attempted. It allowed Minnesota to bury Utah.
The Timberwolves led by as many as 26 points in the third quarter, going up 86-60 when Gibson had a dunk and Butler buried a pull-up jumper on consecutive possessions.
The difference maker, in Towns’ mind, was Minnesota’s ability to contest 3-pointers and keep the Jazz from heating up from outside until the fourth quarter.
“A lot of energy was being transferred, putting them on their heels after a missed shot,” Towns said. “We played the game into our hands and we just kept the pace going our way. We didn’t stop.”
Utah made a late charge in the fourth quarter and cut it to 105-94 on a 3-pointer from Mitchell with 2:32 remaining.
NOTES: Jazz F Jonas Jerebko made his first start of the season. Jerebko totaled 13 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes. ... Minnesota F Taj Gibson has had fourth double-doubles in six November starts. He is averaging 12.7 points and 10.0 rebounds during that stretch. ... Utah outscored Minnesota 49-16 in bench points. ... The Timberwolves finished with a 40-31 edge on the glass.