SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Having just learned they were losing Mike Conley, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt 45 minutes before tip-off, it was understandable how the Jazz didn’t bring its A-game to the floor Wednesday night against Minnesota.
But they probably weren’t expecting their biggest home blowout of the season.
Anthony Edwards scored 31 points and Jaylen Nowell added a career-high 30 to lead Minnesota to a 143-118 win over Utah on Wednesday night amid word the Timberwolves, Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers were part of an eight-player swap hours ahead of the NBA trade deadline.
“They’re all great guys,” Jazz center Walker Kessler said about Conley, Beasley and Vanderbilt. “You get close with them, but that’s the NBA. Those are my guys, my brothers, and it’s just part of the business.”
“It’s not devastating, but it was surprising,” added Jazz guard Talen Horton-Tucker, who scored 15 points. “Obviously it’s the NBA, so you’ve got to be ready for any situation. Being on a team with a group of guys like that, you get close and then having some guys leave, it’s always going to be a little harsh.”
Playing loose, the Timberwolves set a season high with 79 points in the first half and led 107-80 midway through the third quarter, helped by 64% shooting from the field and 61% from 3-point range.
Luka Garza scored a career-high 25 points and the Timberwolves made 23 3-pointers at a 54% shooting clip, tying their highest output of the season.
”It was definitely strange,” Garza said of the deal happening just before the game. ”But I don’t want to ever look back in my time in NBA and be like, I didn’t make the most of what was my childhood dream.”
The three-team trade was confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday night by a person with knowledge of the deal, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the teams hadn’t announced the major deal made ahead of Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline.
In the deal, the Timberwolves sent D’Angelo Russell to the Lakers, where he played his first two NBA seasons from 2015-17. Utah shipped Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Mike Conley to Minnesota and dealt Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley to the Lakers. The Jazz received Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones from the Lakers, as well as a first-round draft pick in 2027.
The Jazz were short-handed in the game without four players who have logged significant minutes this season, as the teams were just shells of their former selves.
The Timberwolves were also missing a host of regulars as Rudy Gobert (groin), Kyle Anderson (back) and Austin Rivers (suspension) were held out, and Karl-Anthony Towns is still sidelined with a right calf strain.
Lauri Markkanen scored 21 points and Collin Sexton had 20 in Utah’s worst home loss of the season. Their worst road loss of the season was a 26-point defeat to Milwaukee on Dec. 17.
”Credit to Minnesota, they made a lot of shots and we missed a lot of make-able shots,” Utah coach Will Hardy said of his team making just 31 of 65 shots in the paint. ”They made 23 3s at 54% and that was too hard for us to overcome.”
This Jazz have assembled a formidable collection of draft capital, including key pieces from Minnesota in last summer’s Gobert deal.
Utah has 15 unprotected or lightly protected first-round picks to use through 2029, along with a talented under-25 group of Markkanen, Walker Kessler, Sexton and Ochai Agbaji and more than $60 million under the salary cap if they buy out Westbrook, as expected.
Conley was Utah’s only true point guard – and one of the last holdovers from the Donovan Mitchell and Gobert era. Now, Sexton will have the opportunity to prove he can be an effective starting playmaker on a winning team.
Meanwhile, the Timberwolves will see if they can thrive with a veteran, pass-first point guard like Conley, who is averaging a career high 7.7 assists this season.
Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson said they have something special coming their way in Conley.
”He’s a leader, great point guard and a guy that makes everybody’s life easier on the court,” Clarkson said. ”That guy was like Yoda, honestly. He had so many stories and he had such an enlightenment about him. You just listened to him. . He can communicate with anyone.”
In the first quarter, Rudy Gay passed Jason Kidd for 88th on the NBA all-time points scored list with 17,530. Udoka Azubuike matched his season-high of four points with two rim-rattling dunks.
The Jazz (27-29) next play at Toronto Friday night.