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NBA Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves (29-28) at Utah Jazz (27-28)

Though the Utah Jazz have a losing record amid a roster overhaul, the team has been competitive in most games.

Monday night was an embarrassing exception to that rule.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah’s next opponent, probably feel even worse about their most recent game coming into a Wednesday matchup against the Jazz in Salt Lake City.

The Jazz collapsed in the fourth quarter of a 124-111 home loss against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, who were playing without Luka Doncic and every player involved in the Kyrie Irving trade.

Utah was done in by the unlikely duo of Josh Green and Jaden Hardy, who each scored a career-high 29 points.

The Hardy from the other locker room disagreed.

Jazz coach Will Hardy said, “This is the first game all season where I’ve felt disappointed in our focus. There (are) always nights where bounces don’t go your way, but I felt collectively we did not have the necessary focus on the little things. That’s why we lost the game.”

As for the Timberwolves, they trailed by 30 points after the first quarter at Denver on Tuesday and never recovered, taking a 146-112 shellacking from the Nuggets.

Nobody struggled more than former Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who went scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting and grabbed just five rebounds. Denver center Nikola Jokic, meanwhile, racked up a triple-double in 28 minutes, registering 20 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds.

The only positive for Gobert? He played just 19 minutes, so he should be well-rested for his second return trip to Utah, where he played nine seasons and earned the Defensive Player of the Year award three times.

Gobert looked like his usual All-Star self when Minnesota visited Utah on Dec. 9, amassing 22 points and 13 rebounds in the Timberwolves’ 118-108 win.

The Stifle Tower played just five minutes in the Timberwolves’ 126-125 loss to Utah on Jan. 16 in Minneapolis. On that night, Jazz rookie center Walker Kessler, who was a piece in the blockbuster Gobert trade last offseason, had career highs of 20 points and 21 rebounds.

Kessler has been a bright spot for the Jazz, playing even better than his averages of 7.9 points and 7.4 rebounds would suggest. He also is blocking 2.1 shots per game while averaging just 20.4 minutes.

Even though the 7-foot rookie played better against Dallas, finishing with 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocks — compared to two points and five boards in the previous game vs. the Atlanta Hawks — the Jazz seemed out of sorts against the Mavericks.

On a positive note for Minnesota, the team was accompanied on the current road trip by Karl-Anthony Towns, who has been sidelined due to a calf injury since late November.

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