Minnesota Timberwolves: Player grades from close loss to Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JANUARY 25: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JANUARY 25: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves came back from a 23-point second-half deficit to give the Utah Jazz a run for their money in a Friday night thriller.

A loss is a loss, and a team fighting for their playoff lives can’t be all too concerned with the dreaded “moral victory”. But if there was ever a loss that was somehow even slightly easier to stomach, it was this one.

The Minnesota Timberwolves struggled through a miserable first half and managed to only trail by seven points at halftime despite Karl-Anthony Towns playing only six minutes over the first two minutes due to foul trouble (again.) Then, the third quarter unraveled quickly.

With the Jazz already going on a mini-run, the Timberwolves became collectively incensed with the spotty officiating. After a particularly egregious no-call when Wiggins was mugged on his way to the basket in transition, followed by a borderline call on Taj Gibson on the other end of the floor, the usually somewhat level-headed veteran big man took a run at James Williams, the official who was the target of much of the evening’s complaining.

Gibson and Towns each received technical fouls, and then Taj maneuvered his way around all of his teammates and sprinted at Williams before being restrained. He was ejected, and appeared to have an obscene gesture to share with Williams as he was being escorted out.

Shortly thereafter, Towns picked up his fourth foul, and the Jazz lead ballooned to 23. But the Wolves fought back, getting to within two points in the waning moments of the final quarter.

Unfortunately a series of empty possessions and a couple of disappointing turnovers allowed the Jazz plenty of opportunities to take a multi-possession lead, but they couldn’t do it. Ultimately, the Wolves had the ball down three points with just under 15 seconds left.

Jerryd Bayless couldn’t find an open man in what appeared to be somewhat of a poorly-executed play, and Anthony Tolliver was forced into a tough, off-balance 3-pointer that drew nothing but air.

All things considered, it was a gutsy effort from a squad that was already shorthanded (no Jeff Teague, Derrick Rose, Tyus Jones, or Robert Covington) and lost Gibson to ejection and Gorgui Dieng to an apparent new injury.

Interim head coach Ryan Saunders spoke to the team’s ability to fight after the game.

Let’s take a look at a few player grades from the game.

Karl-Anthony Towns was an absolute monster in the second half. Unfortunately, his foul trouble was a big reason why the Jazz were able to build so much momentum in the first place. The first personal he picked up was a terrible decision by Towns, but Nos. 2 and 3 were extremely ticky-tack. At any rate, Towns ended up with 33 points on 19 shots to go along with 10 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.. Center. Minnesota Timberwolves. KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS. A-

Minnesota Timberwolves. ANDREW WIGGINS. C-. Andrew Wiggins was finally aggressive on the glass, notching a rare double-digit rebound game. Unfortunately, it took him a ghastly 26 shots to get his 22 points. While he was absolutely playing hard, the missed countless easy buckets in the lane, including at least two wide-open, point blank layup/dunk attempts. Along with five turnovers, it was a tough night for Wiggins.. Guard/Forward

B. Jerryd Bayless was the only true point guard available for the Wolves on Friday, and he was visably exhausted by the early stages of the fourth quarter. During one timeout, Bayless didn’t even make it to the bench without taking a break at the scorers table for a breather. He played admirably and didn’t shy away from big shots at the end, but was clearly stretched beyond his comfort level. Bayless had 11 points (4-14 FG, 3-7 3P), eight assists, and five rebounds.. Point Guard. Minnesota Timberwolves. JERRYD BAYLESS

B-. Josh Okogie was barely part of this one, playing 28 minutes after logging a whopping 40 the night before in L.A. He was 3-of-8 from the floor, scoring eight points, and played decent defense on Donovan Mitchell when the two were matched up. Other than a poster of a dunk around Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, it was a quiet night for Okogie.. Guard/Forward. Minnesota Timberwolves. JOSH OKOGIE

Power Forward. Minnesota Timberwolves. DARIO SARIC. D. If Okogie had a quiet night, than Dario Saric was practically non-existent. After receiving nine stitches following a Flagrant-1 elbow on Thursday night against the Lakers, Saric played only 17 minutes and scored zero points, grabbing just one rebound. When the Wolves needed him most, he was extremely quiet and ultimately wasn’t on the floor during crunch time. It’s unknown whether he was still feeling the effects of JaVale McGee’s elbow, but either way, he had a disappointing night.

The rest of the team

This game was all about Towns, with a lot of missed shots from Wiggins and Bayless on the side. Nobody else scored more than eight points; one of the two players with eight was Gorgui Dieng, who shot 4-of-5 in 12 minutes before apparently injuring his hip and leaving the game.

Gibson also had eight points but lost his cool and only played 21 minutes because of his ejection. Luol Deng received early minutes off the bench, logging 22 minutes and playing well, although he was quiet offensively and missed an open corner 3-pointer late that would have given the Wolves a one-point lead in the final minutes.

Jared Terrell was okay in his second-straight game of playing real minutes, as was C.J. Williams. Tolliver was extremely quiet early but knocked down two monster 3-pointers during the Wolves’ comeback in the fourth quarter.

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What’s Next?

The Timberwolves complete their second home-and-home in under a week as they host the Jazz at Target Center on Sunday night at 6 p.m.