Player grades from Minnesota Timberwolves win over Utah Jazz

D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves guards Mike Conley of the Utah Jazz. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
D'Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves guards Mike Conley of the Utah Jazz. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves moved to 2-0 on the season with a road win over the Northwest Division rival Utah Jazz.

111. 118. Final. 116. 86

The Minnesota Timberwolves are 2-0.

That’s the headline, certainly. But there are plenty of sub-headers to this one.

First, the Wolves were up by 15 points at halftime and 18 points at one point in the third quarter. The Jazz got to within a possession a couple of times in the fourth quarter, but it (mostly) felt like the Wolves were in control the whole time.

The story to keep an eye on in the less-than-24-hours until the Wolves tip-off against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday is the health of Karl-Anthony Towns. The Wolves superstar fell hard on his left wrist (yes, the same one that he fractured last season) after trying to dunk over Rudy Gobert. He went back to the locker room and came back out on the floor to finish the game, but his postgame comments were … concerning, to say the least.

In Towns’ absence, D’Angelo Russell hit a pair of tough mid-range jumpers and the Wolves extended their lead to two possessions, but the Jazz hung around to the point that they had an opportunity to inbound the ball and hit a three to tie the game with under six seconds to play.

With Bojan Bogdanovic inbounding the ball, Malik Beasley’s pressure, and Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie’s fantastic defense on Jordan Clarkson and Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz could not get the ball in play and were slapped with a five-second call, effectively ending the game.

The Wolves primarily relied on fantastic defense that led to transition offense. They switched pick-and-roll coverages frequently and were largely crisp in their rotations, including Towns and Russell. After struggling defensively in the first half, Malik Beasley played a great second half on both ends of the floor.

Despite being severely outrebounded and out-shot at the free throw line, the Wolves had the Jazz at arm’s length for much of the night. The all-around effort and execution were night-and-day better than Wednesday’s ugly win over Detroit, and this was exactly the type of victory that head coach Ryan Saunders and the coaching staff were looking for to hopefully jump-start this team moving forward.

Minnesota Timberwolves Player Grades

Karl-Anthony Towns was awesome defensively early in the game, swatting a pair of shots and stripping the ball from the Jazz twice in the paint in the opening few minutes. He had a bit of early foul trouble but wasn’t called for any personals in the second half. Towns didn’t score until the first quarter was almost over, and while his final line of 16 points (6-19 FG, 1-5 3P, 3-3 FT), 12 rebounds, four blocks, and three steals is relatively pedestrian, he impacted the game positively on both ends of the court up until his injury late in the fourth quarter.. Center. Minnesota Timberwolves. KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS. B+

B-. D’Angelo Russell was great defensively in the first half — and no, nobody has ever said that before. But he was genuinely hustling, fighting through screens, communicating, and playing hard. Russell was also solid on offense for much of the game until some bad shots late in the game. He had a bad foul on a Jordan Clarkson 3-point attempt late in the fourth quarter as the Wolves were trying desperately to hang on and scuffled from the free throw line, but it was overall a decent game from D’Lo. Russell finished with 25 points (9-21 FG, 3-6 3P, 4-8 FT), six assists, two rebounds, one steal.. Guard. Minnesota Timberwolves. D'ANGELO RUSSELL

Wing. Minnesota Timberwolves. MALIK BEASLEY. A-. Malik Beasley also struggled with efficiency in this one, but his work on the glass and on both ends of the floor in the third quarter helped the Wolves build their lead to as many as 18 points and allowed them to stem the Jazz tide heading into the fourth and final frame. Beasley finished with 18 points (7-17 FG, 1-4 3P, 3-3 FT), six rebounds, and a steal and led a third-quarter flurry on offense and in transition. While his defense was spotty in the first half, he was much better as the game wore on.

JOSH OKOGIE. A. Josh Okogie played roughly half of his minutes at power forward and matched up well against anyone he was asked to guard. His line of eight points and six rebounds in 32 minutes is modest, but he played a fantastic game.. Wing. Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves. ANTHONY EDWARDS. A-. Anthony Edwards was fantastic once again, and especially in the first half. He finished with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 2-of-3 from 3-point range, but most of his damage was done early as the Wolves built a double-digit lead. Edwards scored in a variety of ways, from driving on Royce O’Neal — usually a fantastic defender — to challenging Rudy Gobert at the rim to draining difficult, Nowitizki-esque jumpers, the No. 1 overall pick impressed. He only had one rebound in 22 minutes, and given that he played quite a bit at the 4, the Wolves would have loved to get more out of him there. But that’s a small issue in an otherwise encouraging outing.. Wing

A. Somewhat lost in the excitement surrounding Edwards is Jarrett Culver’s apparent improvement. Culver was perfect from the field, making five shots and all three of his 3-point attempts en route to 14 points and six rebounds in just 20 minutes off the bench. He was also great defensively, earning crunch time minutes as one of the Wolves’ relied-upon wing stoppers.. Guard. Minnesota Timberwolves. JARRETT CULVER

Other Minnesota Timberwolves Players

Jake Layman was a starter and deserved to get a player grade card along with the above players, but … what do we say about him? He posted another line of zeros, and he, along with Juancho Herrnangomez’s five minutes of playing time, were disappointing once again.

That’s right, Layman and Hernangomez, expected to be the Wolves’ primary tandem at the 4, combined to play 19 minutes and score zero points while posting one assist, steal, and rebound. They’ve both been scoreless through the Wolves’ first two games.

Hence, Edwards and Okogie playing the 4. How will Saunders manage the minutes split moving forward?

Ricky Rubio was great until the fourth quarter, and his line of nine points, six assists, and four rebounds with only one turnover will do just fine on most nights. He had a couple of ill-advised shots and a bad turnover late in the game but was largely solid.

Naz Reid was okay overall but struggled on the glass, finishing with eight points, two rebounds, and two assists in 18 minutes. He left briefly with an injury late in the second quarter, allowing Ed Davis to make his brief regular-season debut in a Timberwolves uniform.

Next. The Wolves need to play Jaden McDaniels. dark

Up Next for the Timberwolves

The Wolves fly to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers on Sunday night. The game tips at 9 p.m. CT and can be seen on NBA TV.