Injuries are a bigger storyline than the teams’ blockbuster offseason trade heading into Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee matchup in Minneapolis between the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Rudy Gobert, the key piece of that whopper of a deal, had to leave Saturday’s game against his old teammate, Donovan Mitchell of Cleveland, due to a groin strain.
Gobert is listed as day-to-day, so his status is up in the air for Minnesota, which already is without All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns, who’s been out since late November with a calf injury.
The Jazz played the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night without four key players, including leading scorer Lauri Markkanen (hip), starting center Kelly Olynyk (ankle), Collin Sexton (hamstring) and Rudy Gay (back).
While it remains to be seen who will be available at tipoff Monday afternoon, both teams were competitive without those athletes in action on Saturday.
After Gobert left with right-groin soreness, the Timberwolves had to deal with Jaden McDaniels picking up his fifth foul less than three minutes into the second half. Naz Reid led a contingent of players to pick up the slack with 17 players, nicely complementing Anthony Edwards’ 26 points.
Jalen Nowell (16 points) and Luka Garza (nine points) also played well off the bench in Minnesota’s 110-102 win over the Cavaliers.
It’s possible that crew will be counted on again against the Jazz.
“I thought Naz really came alive in that second half,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “I thought he played well all game, but he really stepped up in Rudy’s absence, gave us some emotional play as well with the big dunks.”
Garza tied the game at 80 with a 3-pointer in the third quarter, and the T-Wolves went on to outscore the Cavs 33-22 in the fourth.
“The crowd feeds into it,” Garza said, “and I try to pick up off that momentum and help us continue what they started on that run.”
The Jazz will enter Monday’s game after a disappointing one-point home loss to the 76ers, but short-handed Utah rallied out of a 20-point hole to take the lead late in the game.
Jordan Clarkson and Walker Kessler put Utah ahead with buckets in the final 33.2 seconds. Unfortunately for the Jazz, James Harden and Joel Embiid responded with go-ahead baskets for Philly.
Clarkson finished with 38 points in the 118-117 loss. Kessler had another double-double, the seventh of his rookie season, with 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks to help fill in for Olynyk.
“I think our team showed a lot of fight again, as we always do, executed some things really, really well as the game went on,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said.
Clarkson scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to give the Jazz a chance.
“We ain’t scared of the moment, I can tell you that,” Clarkson said. “We have been in close games the whole year. We fight, we scrap.”
Utah and Minnesota have played each other twice this season. The Jazz beat the Timberwolves in overtime, 132-126, in Minneapolis in October.
Minnesota returned the favor by winning in Utah 118-108 in December.
–Field Level Media