Struggling Jazz try to extend Timberwolves' skid
Once again, the Utah Jazz are mired in another slow start. Finding a way to get back on track has not been simple or easy to do.
The Jazz have dropped six out of their last eight games heading into Wednesday night's road game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Utah's only victories during that stretch have come against a rebuilding Memphis squad.
The formula for a loss has stayed consistent. Utah has settled for low-percentage shots, is giving up turnovers in bunches, and lacks energy on defense.
"Honestly, we have been saying the same things for a week and a half. We need a tougher mindset," guard Donovan Mitchell told reporters. "We've got to get back in transition and communicate. When we don't hit shots, we can't allow it to affect our defense."
Turnovers are a persistent problem affecting play on both ends of the court. Jazz opponents have scored 19 or more points off turnovers in nine of Utah's last 10 games. As a result, Utah is yielding 20.1 fast-break points per game over their last eight contests.
In Monday's 104-90 loss to Oklahoma City, the Jazz trailed over the final three quarters after struggling with bad passing and poor shooting. Utah coughed up 14 turnovers and shot 40.4 percent from the floor.
The Thunder were the fifth opponent in the last seven games to shoot better than 45 percent from the field against the Jazz.
"We've got to be connected in order to really defend," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. "That means everybody doing their job. It's kind of a chain reaction at times. There's nothing about our team that doesn't own the performance."
Minnesota is also seeking answers to its own struggles. The Timberwolves have dropped five straight games -- most recently falling to the Phoenix Suns 125-109 on Monday to cap off a four-game road trip.
Defense has been a major issue for Minnesota during this winless stretch. The Wolves are allowing 128.4 points per game over the last five contests. A night after Minnesota allowed a season-high 142 points to the Los Angeles Lakers, it allowed the Suns to shoot 49.5 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range.
The Wolves have a 124.7 defensive rating in December.
"Not a good road trip for our defense," Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said. "Not a good road trip for us in general. We have things we need to clean up going home. We'll have challenges but opportunities."
Utah and Minnesota have already played twice this season. The two teams played consecutive games in mid-November with each road team coming away with a victory.
Karl-Anthony Towns will be the x-factor for the Wolves. He is averaging 21.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists versus the Jazz this season. Towns ran off 29 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists when Minnesota beat Utah 112-102 on November 18. He scored only 14 points in a 103-95 loss to the Jazz two nights later.
Bojan Bogdanovic keyed Utah's victory in the most recent meeting between the two teams. He ran off 30 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Bogdanovic has averaged 24 points in the two contests with Minnesota.
--Field Level Media
Updated December 10, 2019