Utah Jazz learn an early season lesson as they lose to Minnesota in home opener
The Utah Jazz took their first L.
Rudy Gobert just hopes that L stands for “lesson”.
A sloppy first half put the Jazz in a hole they couldn’t dig themselves out of, as they fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-111 in Saturday’s home-opener. Afterward, the team’s All-Star center said he hoped the loss would serve as an early wake-up call.
“It’s good that we have one now because we’re going to have to realize that we have to come out with same intensity and same urgency every night,” Gobert said.
The Timberwolves had the Jazz on their heels early at Vivint Arena. Minnesota led by 15 at halftime thanks to 11-of-20 shooting from beyond the arc and 12 Utah turnovers that led to 17 points in the half.
“They took us out of a lot of our actions,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said after scoring 21 points in defeat. “That’s what changed everything. We have to be able to withstand that and find ways to use that against them. Give credit to them for coming out and being the aggressor. We waited too long. It’s tough to come back from a 17-point deficit.”
Jordan: 23p | 3r | 2 3pm
Donovan: 21p | 5a | 3s | 2b | 2r | 2 3pm
Mike: 20p | 6r | 4a | 1s
Rudy: 18p | 17r | 2a | 1b
Royce: 13r | 5p | 1a
Joe: 10p | 2r | 2 3pm
Bojan: 9p | 7r | 1a | 1b
Derrick: 6r | 5p | 2a | 1s pic.twitter.com/W1efZgZBP0
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) December 27, 2020
The Jazz were led by 23 points from sixth man Jordan Clarkson. Gobert had 18 points and 17 rebounds.
For Minnesota, guard D’Angelo Russell led all scorers with 25 points. No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Edwards added 18 points.
After falling to 1-1 on the young season, Jazz point guard Mike Conley said his squad will be ready to respond.
“We would much rather come out with the W and not have to learn our lessons in this fashion,” he said. “But we have to learn that teams are going to come out and give their best shot, night in and night out. We have to come with a better sense of urgency from the tip. They came out with great energy on both ends of the floor.
“We have to be better than that. I think we will. We’ll learn from it.”
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) December 27, 2020
The Jazz allowed the Timberwolves to score 68 points in the first half Saturday night, and found themselves trailing by 15 at the break. “We knew we had to really come out locked in last game and tonight maybe we didn’t feel like come out as physical and locked in—and we felt that,” Gobert said.
The Jazz turned the ball over 18 times on Saturday, and lost the points off turnovers battle 26-11.
The Jazz have placed an emphasis on 3-point shooting this season. But after attempting a franchise-record 50 triples on opening night, the Jazz saw that number drop by 16 against Minnesota. “We have an expression, you have to run your offense through their defense,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “That requires more force and playing more precise than we did tonight.”
Minnesota head coach Ryan Saunders felt a different energy on Saturday night.
He could smell something different, too.
“It definitely feels different coming into this arena compared to our previous four games,” Saunders said. “You can tell there are more ushers. They’re getting ready for fans. And you can smell the popcorn popping. So it does make you feel good.”
There were 1,500 fans in attendance on Saturday night at Vivint Arena—the largest crowd the Jazz have seen since the league’s shutdown last March.
“We want fans to be in the building,” Conley said before the game. “Obviously, as safely as possible. As long as they’re following the protocols and the guys on our team and staff and families are following strict protocols, it’s needed for the community to get back involved with our team. But I cannot stress enough the importance of doing the right things now.”
Afterward, the point guard called the fan presence “a breath of fresh air.”
“It sounded like there were a lot more than that,” he said. “It was great to have them in the building. It’s great to have our families in the building. It was just a great atmosphere, as it always is. One of the best in the league. We’re looking forward to more games like that.”
The Jazz travel to Oklahoma City for a Monday night matchup with the Thunder. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. MT.