SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz are roaring into 2022.
Donovan Mitchell scored a season-high 39 points and the Utah Jazz beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 120-108 on Friday night.
Mitchell added six rebounds and five assists in his return from a two-game absence due to a back strain. With both Mike Conley and Joe Ingles sidelined, he handled point guard duties in his first game back and shot 57% from the field, including 6 of 11 from 3-point range.
“I thought we executed well offensively with a group that hasn’t played together as much,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “And then we got stops. We were able to run out and get some things in transition.”
Bojan Bogdanovic added 24 points and 12 rebounds, Jordan Clarkson chipped in 20 points and Rudy Gobert added 14 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks.
Utah went 35 of 41 from the free throw line.
Joe Ingles (lower back strain) and Mike Conley (rest) did not play.
“You look at last year how they guarded us, how they played us with physicality. It kind of gave us trouble,” Mitchell said. “So this year, the way we were able to combat that, get to the free throw line and continue to play through it with force (and) pushing the pace. As a group, we did a really good job of just continuing to put pressure on them.”
Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards scored 26 points in his return after a six-game absence due to health and safety protocols. Malik Beasley added 22 points for the Timberwolves.
Minnesota was short-handed offensively with both Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, who are still sidelined due to health and safety protocols, absent from the lineup.
After Patrick Beverley hit a go-ahead 3-pointer a minute into the fourth quarter, the Jazz scored 22 unanswered points to pull away from the Timberwolves. Mitchell ignited the run with back-to-back baskets and scored 12 points during the outburst. Gobert and Mitchell finished it off with back-to-back baskets that gave Utah a 113-92 lead with 5:51 left.
“Guarding them is tough,” Edwards said. “Our lineup, I think everybody held their own. Guarding them is tough because they got so many shooters on the floor.”
Utah built a 13-point halftime lead, going up 63-50, by knocking down 3-pointers and repeatedly getting to the free throw line.
The Jazz made seven outside baskets — with four coming from Mitchell — and shot 54% from the perimeter before halftime. Utah also shot 22 of 26 on free throws in the first half. Bogdanovic and Gobert each had eight free throw attempts, equaling Minnesota’s total free throw attempts in the first two quarters.
Minnesota rallied in the third quarter and erased Utah’s lead. Jaden McDaniels capped a 12-2 run with a go-ahead jumper that gave the Timberwolves a 79-78 edge. Edwards and Naz Reid each scored a pair of baskets to fuel the spurt.
“I didn’t think we brought the right amount of intensity in the first half,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “I think we ran out of gas because we had to exhaust so much (energy) in the third quarter.”
The Jazz next host the Golden State Warriors Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. Utah trails the Warriors by 1.5 games for the best record in the Western Conference.