T’wolves Top Jazz in Matchup of Teams Trading with Lakers
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Anthony Edwards scored 31 points and Jaylen Nowell added a career-high 30 to lead Minnesota to a 143-118 win over Utah on Wednesday night amid word the Timberwolves, Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers were part of an eight-player swap hours ahead of the NBA trade deadline.
“It was crazy, the last six hours,” Edwards said. “But, I mean, we’re here to play basketball at the end of the day. We can’t really feed into that — we have nothing to do with that. (My teammates) did a great job of staying locked in and they kept me locked in.”
Playing loose, the Timberwolves set a season high with 79 points in the first half and led 107-80 midway through the third quarter, helped by 64% shooting from the field and 61% from 3-point range.
While not speaking directly about a trade that hadn’t been announced, Minnesota coach Chris Finch detailed the difficulty if playing while the roster was in flux.
“We just talked briefly about things before taking the floor. These things, it’s unfortunate timing, you don’t ever get to pick your timing. Maybe in some ways, it was good that we could just play a game and not have to overthink things. But guys were ready,” Finch said.
Luka Garza scored a career-high 25 points and the Timberwolves made 23 3-pointers at a 54% shooting clip, tying their highest output of the season.
“It was definitely strange,” Garza said of the deal happening just before the game. “But I don’t want to ever look back in my time in NBA and be like, I didn’t make the most of what was my childhood dream.”
The three-team trade was confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday night by a person with knowledge of the deal, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the teams hadn’t announced the major deal made ahead of Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline.
In the deal, the Timberwolves sent D’Angelo Russell to the Lakers, where he played his first two NBA seasons from 2015-17. Utah shipped Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Mike Conley to Minnesota and dealt Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley to the Lakers. The Jazz received Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones from the Lakers, as well as a first-round draft pick in 2027.
The Jazz were short-handed in the game without four players who have logged significant minutes this season, as the teams were just shells of their former selves.
The Timberwolves were also missing a host of regulars as Rudy Gobert (groin), Kyle Anderson (back) and Austin Rivers (suspension) were held out, and Karl-Anthony Towns is still sidelined with a right calf strain.
Lauri Markkanen scored 21 points and Collin Sexton had 20 in Utah’s worst home loss of the season. Their worst road loss of the season was a 26-point defeat to Milwaukee on Dec. 17.
“Credit to Minnesota, they made a lot of shots and we missed a lot of make-able shots,” Utah coach Will Hardy said of his team making just 31 of 65 shots in the paint. “They made 23 3s at 54% and that was too hard for us to overcome.”
This Jazz have assembled a formidable collection of draft capital, including key pieces from Minnesota in last summer’s Gobert deal.
Utah has 15 unprotected or lightly protected first-round picks to use through 2029, along with a talented under-25 group of Markkanen, Walker Kessler, Sexton and Ochai Agbaji and more than $60 million under the salary cap if they buy out Westbrook, as expected.
Conley was Utah’s only true point guard – and one of the last holdovers from the Donovan Mitchell and Gobert era. Now, Sexton will have the opportunity to prove he can be an effective starting playmaker on a winning team.
Meanwhile, the Timberwolves will see if they can thrive with a veteran, pass-first point guard like Conley, who is averaging a career high 7.7 assists this season.
Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson said they have something special coming their way in Conley.
“He’s a leader, great point guard and a guy that makes everybody’s life easier on the court,” Clarkson said. “That guy was like Yoda, honestly. He had so many stories and he had such an enlightenment about him. You just listened to him. … He can communicate with anyone.”
Timberwolves: After two overtime games, Minnesota has won two games by more than 25 points and lost one by 34. … The Timberwolves had 27 fast-break points to just two for the Jazz. … Luke Garza made a career-best four 3-pointers.
Jazz: In the first quarter, Rudy Gay passed Jason Kidd for 88th on the NBA all-time points scored list with 17,530. … Udoka Azubuike matched his season-high of four points with two rim-rattling dunks.
Timberwolves: At Memphis on Friday.
Jazz: At Toronto on Friday.
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