Andrei Kirilenko returned to Utah on Wednesday as the Minnesota Timberwolves took on the Utah Jazz for their first game of 2013. The Wolves were looking to snap a 5 game losing streak in Utah and trying to win for just the 3rd time in their last 14 trips to Salt Lake City. With AK’s return to Salt Lake City, he was looking to try and top career marks of 4000 rebounds and 1000 steals. The Jazz were looking to snap a 3 game losing streak while the Wolves were trying to increase their win streak to 2.
The Wolves were without Ricky Rubio who didn’t travel with the Wolves due to back spasms. Even without Ricky it wouldn’t change the starting 5 of the Wolves, who started Pek, Love, AK, Shved and Luke. The Jazz who will be without Mo Williams for the next 6-8 weeks, started Big Al Jefferson, Paul Milsap, Jamaal Tinsley, Randy Foye and Marvin Williams. From the tip of this game, both teams were looking to l establish themselves in their half court offenses. Both teams clearly wanted to get the ball inside, for the Wolves, they wanted the ball down low to Pek and Love. The Jazz wanted to get the ball inside to Big Al and Milsap. The Jazz had the advantage when they went to their bench and brought in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter in the post. The entire 1st quarter could be summed up as a boxing match. Both teams were trading punches and the other team would counter. Each team only had 1 turnover, and both were close in FG%. The Wolves shot 47.6% and the Jazz shot 44%. Each team really traded baskets throughout the 1st and the score reflected how closely these teams were playing to start, as the Wolves led 24-23 after 1 quarter.
Starting the 2nd quarter, the Wolves primarily had the bench on the floor as Stiemsma, Williams, Cunningham, Shved and Berea were on the floor for the Wolves. With Ricky, Brandon Roy, Malcolm Lee out, the Wolves limited front court were going to have either Luke or Shved on the floor at pretty much all times. The bench of the Jazz was clearly dominating the Wolves in the 2nd quarter. Actually, it was Favors and Kanter that were dominating the Wolves to start the 2nd quarter. In 3 minutes of play in the 2nd quarter the Jazz were outscoring the Wolves 9-2. With 9:07 left to play in the 1st half, Rick Adelman called a timeout with the Jazz leading 32-26. Even with the timeout, the Jazz continued to be much more active than the Wolves as they opened up a 10 point lead (38-28) with 7:44 to play in the 1st half. During a stop in play, the Wolves made substitutions to bring back in Kirilenko and Pekovic. The substitution proved to pay dividends, as the Wolves managed to close the gap to 5 (40-35) with 4:33 left in the 1st half. At 1:52 left in the half and the Wolves losing 50-41 Kirilenko recorded his 4000th rebound of his career. After a very tightly contested 1st half, the Jazz managed to open up an 8 point lead (53-45) entering half time.
The Jazz managed to increase their shooting percentage to 53.8% compared to the Wolves 38.6% in the second quarter. Other than the Jazz’s increase in FG% the game was still really even, both teams had 5 turnovers. The Wolves had 21 rebounds compared to the Jazz with 19. The Wolves bad shooting in the 1st half was really offset by their ability to get to the free throw line, where they were 10-12 for 83.3%. The Jazz on the other hand only got to the line 4 times and made 3 of their free throws.
Each team started the 2nd half with the same 5 they started the game with. The Jazz started the 2nd half scoring a quick 5 point and open up a 14 point lead (59-45), while the Wolves offense struggles continued missing their 1st 5 shots to start the 2nd half. The Wolves went scoreless for almost 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter until Kevin Love finally hit a shot and stopped the Jazz’s lead at 17 with 7:11 left in the 3r quarter. The Wolves shooting tumbled another 4 percent through the first 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter (34.5%), until the bucket by Love. The Wolves offense was struggling but their defense wasn’t exactly stellar. The Jazz were knocking down jump shots, but were doing so with good looks at the rim. To try and stop the Jazz’s open gym like shooting exhibition, the Wolves went to a zone defense. While the Wolves zone did create some confusion for the Jazz, netting an 8-2 run, it wasn’t enough to get the score any closer than 13 as the 3rd quarter ended with the Wolves trailing the Jazz 79-66.
Sweet Lou Amundson entered the game for the Wolves to start the 4th quarter. Also entering the 4th quarter, the Wolves were shooting 7% from 3 and 33% from the field. Sometimes there are just those nights when things won’t go right, and tonight was that type of night for the Wolves. Paul Milsap entered the game shooting a perfect 7-7 and posted a +14 for the game. With 4 minutes played in the final period, the Wolves were unable to shrink the lead any fewer than 13 points. While this game never saw the Wolves get into any kind of a flow, they dropped the contest to the Jazz 106-84.
The Jazz’s core of young players is impressive. Their inside game could be so good, yet there is really no pick and roll game. It is either Iso ball or jump shots from their big men. This group seems like they should have much more potential than they are actually displaying.
The Wolves have shown to be successful when they move the ball; the Wolves only had 17 assists for the game.
Kevin Love’s offense dud of a season continued as he went 4-14 for 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Wolves will play the 2nd of the back to back on Wednesday in Denver against the Nuggets with an 8 p.m. tip.