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MINNEAPOLIS — The Utah Jazz committed two quick turnovers in the early moments of Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Quin Snyder called a timeout after the Wolves scored off the second turnover. He needed a word with his team.
“I’m not going to lie, I forgot what he said,” Donovan Mitchell said, a little surprised that he’d actually forgotten the moment.
“I was just …,” Mitchell said gesturing with his hands to indicate that he was laser focused, that he was tuning out everything else around him.
Donovan Mitchell broke out all sorts of tricks in the Jazz’s win over Minnesota
The timeout could have went without Snyder saying anything to the Jazz, no words were needed. The players knew that they had messed up, that turnovers against the Timberwolves can be deadly and that they needed to clean things up.
Mitchell proceeded to go on a tear.
He finished with 36 points, but it was clear from the beginning that there was some extra motivation going into this one, that he wasn’t going to be willing to walk out of the Target Center with anything other than a win. Mitchell was thinking about what the Timberwolves did to the Jazz last season.
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Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) knocks the ball out away from Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley (5) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday Dec. 8, 2021, in Minneapolis. Stacy Bengs, AP
“We got swept. It’s no secret, they swept us,” Mitchell said. “I think we all kind of felt that. And getting swept isn’t fun. We have a lot of pride on this team and we took that personal.”
The Timberwolves beat the Jazz 3-0 during the 2020-21 regular season and they were games where the Wolves played physically and things got chippy. The Jazz were the winningest team in the league last season but they couldn’t seem to get past the lowly Timberwolves.
The memory of those three losses were enough to put Mitchell into what he called “attack mode” from the jump on Wednesday.
The Jazz will play Minnesota two more times this month (Dec. 23 and 31, both games in Salt Lake City) and once more in Minneapolis on Jan. 30. Heading into those games, there might be even more motivation after some of the postgame comments from Wolves players.
Patrick Beverley took aim at the fact Rudy Gobert is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner, suggesting that Gobert doesn’t guard the best players on the court.
“If I’m defensive player of the year, I’m always guarding the best player no matter what, I’m not roaming,” Beverley said. “It’s no discredit to Royce O’Neale or any of the others on their team, but if I’m defensive player of the year, I’m not guarding Royce O’Neale. I’m guarding Mike Conley, I’m guarding Donovan Mitchell, I’m guarding (Bojan) Bogdanovic. You got Rudy Gobert out there guarding (Jarred) Vanderbilt. And every time I hear he’s defensive player of the year. So, uh, whatever.”
If that wasn’t enough of dig at one of the Jazz’s best players, Anthony Edwards added his own two cents to the conversation, suggesting that Dallas Mavericks center Kristaps Porzingis is a better defender than Gobert.
“Anytime I go against Porzingis, I don’t get no layups,” Edwards said. “I don’t get why we couldn’t finish on Rudy Gobert. He don’t put no fear in my heart.”
Beverley also suggested that although the Jazz tend to always be a top team in the West with a great coach, he seemed like he wanted to stop just a hair short of calling the players great. He did said that Utah has “solid” players, but it was with a little bit of a side eye.
The Jazz seemed like they had all the motivation they needed after the three losses to the Timberwolves last season, but now there’s some pretty hefty trash talk that could really spice up the rest of the meetings between the two teams.