Thursday, November 30, 2023
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NBA Preview: Utah Jazz (2-4) at Minnesota Timberwolves (2-2)

It won’t make up for what happened in the 2023 playoffs, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are riding high into Saturday’s game in Minneapolis against the Utah Jazz after picking up a big victory in their most recent performance.

On Wednesday, the Timberwolves handed the reigning NBA champion Denver Nuggets their first loss of the 2023-24 season with a 110-89 blowout victory at home.

Anthony Edwards scored 24 points for Minnesota, Karl-Anthony Towns contributed 21 points and eight rebounds and Mike Conley hit 7 of 9 shots for 17 points in the start-to-finish win.

Minnesota limited two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic to 11-of-23 shooting, and the Nuggets struggled on the perimeter, going 6-for-33 from 3-point range in their first loss after starting 4-0.

Denver coach Mike Malone acknowledged that teams are going to try to match what Minnesota did and give the Nuggets their best effort because they are the champs. If the Wolves needed any motivation, the memory of being knocked out of the first round and only winning one of five playoff games against Denver provided it.

Conley, who’ll face his former Jazz teammates in Saturday’s game, liked that the Timberwolves remained poised to bring their record to .500.

The Jazz couldn’t quite say the same about parts of their most recent outing, a heartbreaking 115-113 home loss to the Orlando Magic on Thursday. Utah blew an early double-digit lead during a rough second quarter, and then couldn’t hold on for the victory after erasing a 14-point deficit and taking the lead against the Magic on Lauri Markkanen’s 3-pointer with 19.2 seconds left.

Jazz coach Will Hardy, whose team has lost three of its past four games, lamented Utah’s miscommunication on the ensuing play, which resulted in Orlando’s Paolo Banchero hitting the game-winning bucket with 14 seconds remaining. Utah’s second-year coach liked that the Jazz fought out of a seven-point hole to momentarily take the lead in the final 1:41. But being outscored 36-24 in the second quarter and having a late defensive breakdown when it counted most shows there’s room for improvement.

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