Player grades from Minnesota Timberwolves win over Utah Jazz

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

Minnesota Timberwolves
116
Utah Jazz
111

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

Center, Minnesota Timberwolves

B+

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.
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D'ANGELO RUSSELL

Guard, Minnesota Timberwolves

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.