SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Donovan Mitchell was finding his teammates in all sorts of ways. One of his career-high 11 assists looked as if it belonged on the diamond instead of the court.
“I got back to my old ways,” said Mitchell, who pitched and played shortstop in high school. “It was just making a play, making a read and Georges (Niang) was wide open and a two-hand pass just wouldn’t have worked.”
Mitchell scored 24 points but the Utah Jazz frittered away a 23-point lead and barely outlasted the short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves 106-102 on Friday night.
“I don’t think we were happy with the game ended and we weren’t happy with the way we played in the fourth,” Mitchell said. “We got complacent in ways.”
Rudy Gobert, who was a game-time decision with a sore hamstring, had 18 points and 16 rebounds, and Kyle Korver scored 16 for the Jazz, who have won eight of their last nine.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 33 points and 10 rebounds and Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points on 8-of-26 shooting and had a season-high 11 rebounds for Minnesota, which saw its three-game winning streak snapped on the second game of a back-to-back.
“Fourth quarter, I’m trying to take over the game and dominate,” Towns said. “I’m trying to give us a chance to win. I was just being a little aggressive all around and trying to make plays everywhere.”
Anthony Tolliver hit his second 3 of the final four minutes to get the Timberwolves within one at 103-102, but Luol Deng missed an open 3-pointer in the corner for a chance to give Minnesota its first lead since the first quarter.
Joe Ingles, who had 12 points, snatched the rebound and hit two free throws. On the next possession, Gobert got a piece of Tolliver’s 3-point attempt. Mitchell rebounded and hit one free throw to clinch the win.
“I had to make a play and block that shot,” said Gobert, who had four blocks. “We had to lock in.”
Mitchell, who has scored at least 24 points in 11 consecutive games, was forced to play the point for six games while all three Jazz point guards were injured. Even though Rubio has returned, Mitchell has continued his playmaking ways and marked the first double-double of his career.
“I’m just making good reads and having confidence in my passes,” Mitchell said. “When we had three point guards out, you got to be able to make those plays, that’s where it started. I had no choice.”
In the second quarter, Mitchell – the son of former minor league pitcher Donovan Sr., the New York Mets’ director of player relations – threw the surprising cross-court fastball with one hand to Niang for a 3.
“At this time last year, he wasn’t even throwing those passes to the corner and now he’s throwing left hand, right hand, one, two, whatever he needs to do to get it there,” Ingles said.
In the third quarter, the Timberwolves took another hit when Taj Gibson went after the officials and got two technicals and had to be restrained by his teammates after a foul call as Ingles went to the basket.
The Jazz then shot five free throws, three by Mitchell (as Towns also got a technical) and two by Ingles. With 4:46 left in the third, Mitchell hit two more foul shots to cap the 13-0 run and the Jazz led 75-54.
The Jazz led by as many as 23 in the third period, but the Timberwolves scored the first 13 points of the fourth quarter. When Towns followed his own missed jumper with a layup, the Timberwolves had closed within eight at 90-82.
Utah barely survived while shooting 5 of 28 in the fourth quarter and was saved by some hustle plays and defensive stops. The Jazz made only two field goals in the final five minutes.
“We lost focus,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “Just a lot of mental mistakes.”
The Timberwolves were missing Derrick Rose (sore ankle), Tyus Jones (ankle sprain) and Jeff Teague (sore foot), which caused some trouble in executing the offense and players getting the ball in unfamiliar positions.
GIBSON: ‘I JUST LOST IT’
Gibson doesn’t have a problem with official James Williams, even though it looked as though he wanted to fight him when he got ejected.
“I know James,” Gibson said. “He’s a like big brother. … You get used to seeing him all the time, so you’ve got a relationship. Sometimes, tempers flare and kind of lose it a little. But at the end of the day, you know he means well. It’s part of the job. It was just one of those times I lost it.”
Gibson, who scored his 7,000th career point before his meltdown, continued: “Like I said, I’m human. But I got a lot of respect for James. Like I said, he’s been reffing my games 10-plus years in the NBA. It’s up to me just to go talk to him and apologize.”
Timberwolves: Minnesota fumbled its way to 12 turnovers in the first half. … Towns was limited to six first-half minutes because of foul trouble. … The Timberwolves outscored the Jazz in the paint 48-38.
Jazz: Ingles got a technical in the fourth quarter. … A bat flew around the arena, interrupting some of the players’ pregame shooting routines. The Jazz Bear mascot finally caught the bat. “That was scary,” Mitchell said. “I was not cool with that at all. I’m glad the Bear got him because I would not have finished my warmup. I would have gone to locker room if he was still flying around out there.” … Brandon Flowers of the rock band The Killers sat courtside.
Timberwolves: Host Utah on Sunday.
Jazz: Visit Minnesota on Sunday.
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