SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – In what looked like a cake-walk, turned into a nail-biter.
The Utah Jazz almost blew a 23-point lead and held off a furious rally by Minnesota to win for the eighth time in their last nine games, 106-102.
Donovan Mitchell recorded his first career double-double with 24 points and a career-high 11 assists, as the Jazz improved to 28-22 on the season.
”I got back to my old ways,” said Mitchell. ”I don’t think we were happy with the game ended and we weren’t happy with the way we played in the fourth,” Mitchell said. ”We got complacent.”
Rudy Gobert, who was a game-time decision with a sore hamstring, had 18 points and 16 rebounds, and Kyle Korver scored 16 for the Jazz, while Derrick Favors added 13.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 33 points and 10 rebounds and Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points on 8-of-26 shooting and had a season-high 11 rebounds for Minnesota, which saw its three-game winning streak snapped on the second game of a back-to-back.
Anthony Tolliver hit his second 3 of the final four minutes to get the Timberwolves within one at 103-102, but Luol Deng missed an open 3-pointer in the corner for a chance to give Minnesota its first lead since the first quarter.
Joe Ingles, who had 12 points, snatched the rebound and hit two free throws. On the next possession, Gobert got a piece of Tolliver’s 3-point attempt. Mitchell rebounded and hit one free throw to clinch the win.
”I had to make a play and block that shot,” said Gobert, who had four blocks. ”We had to lock in.”
Mitchell, who has scored at least 24 points in 11 consecutive games, was forced to play the point for six games while all three Jazz point guards were injured. Even though Rubio has returned, Mitchell has continued his playmaking ways and marked the first double-double of his career.
”I’m just making good reads and having confidence in my passes,” Mitchell said. ”When we had three point guards out, you got to be able to make those plays, that’s where it started. I had no choice.”
In the second quarter, Mitchell – the son of former minor league pitcher Donovan Sr., the New York Mets’ director of player relations – threw the surprising cross-court fastball with one hand to Niang for a 3.
”At this time last year, he wasn’t even throwing those passes to the corner and now he’s throwing left hand, right hand, one, two, whatever he needs to do to get it there,” Ingles said.
In the third quarter, the Timberwolves took another hit when Taj Gibson went after the officials and got two technicals and had to be restrained by his teammates after a foul call as Ingles went to the basket.
The Jazz then shot five free throws, three by Mitchell (as Towns also got a technical) and two by Ingles. With 4:46 left in the third, Mitchell hit two more foul shots to cap the 13-0 run and the Jazz led 75-54.
The Jazz led by as many as 23 in the third period, but the Timberwolves scored the first 13 points of the fourth quarter. When Towns followed his own missed jumper with a layup, the Timberwolves had closed within eight at 90-82.
Utah barely survived while shooting 5 of 28 in the fourth quarter and was saved by some hustle plays and defensive stops. The Jazz made only two field goals in the final five minutes.
”We lost focus,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. ”Just a lot of mental mistakes.”
The Timberwolves were missing Derrick Rose (sore ankle), Tyus Jones (ankle sprain) and Jeff Teague (sore foot), which caused some trouble in executing the offense and players getting the ball in unfamiliar positions.
The Jazz will play the Timberwolves again Sunday night in Minnesota.