SALT LAKE CITY — Early in the third quarter, Bojan Bogdanovic was just outside the paint when it looked like he had risen to take a short jump shot. But instead of shooting, he zipped a pass to the corner to Donovan Mitchell.
Mitchell then swung the ball to Royce O’Neale, who swung it to Joe Ingles, who bounced it back to Bogdanovic, who was standing alone for an open corner 3. Bogdanovic drilled the shot.
A funny thing happened in Minnesota on Wednesday. The Utah Jazz got an easy one, and it came via plays just like that. Utah (14-11) beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 126-116 at Target Center by outpassing the Wolves’ defense.
It was a nice change from the previous couple of weeks.
Utah entered Wednesday’s game having lost six of eight games, with most coming in blowout fashion. It’s been a dispiriting stretch, to say the least, with the team struggling to find answers. But on Wednesday, things clicked.
Turns out when you hit a lot of 3-pointers, get some productive bench play, and have your stars put up big stat lines, wins follow — and easy ones at that.
Mitchell had 30 points and six assists, Rudy Gobert had 20 points and 16 rebounds, and Ingles had 23 points to lead Utah to the victory. The Jazz had eight players register an assist.
“We’ve talked a lot about moving the ball,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said, “guys spacing so that we can move it.”
And they moved. Ingles and Mitchell both got into the paint early and often, collapsing the Minnesota defense and allowing the ball to zip around the perimeter. That led to lots of open shots — and for the most part, the Jazz took advantage.
Utah shot 57% on the night and hit 16 of 35 from 3-point range.
Ingles and Georges Niang hit three triples apiece, while Bogdanovic, Mitchell, O’Neale, Jeff Green and Emmanuel Mudiay all hit a pair of long-range buckets.
“We played together, moved the ball, shared the ball, shared everything on both ends,” Mitchell said. “Just being unselfish. When you get into the paint, having a vision and being able to be aware of what your surroundings are and trusting one another.”
It was fun basketball to watch, and fun to play. The bench celebrated often as the Jazz took control with a 38-point third quarter and eventually pushed the lead to 20 in the final period.
“It's just a lot of fun when we play that way,” Mitchell said. “And as long as we continue to get back to it, I think we'll be in good shape.”
The Jazz played well all across the board. Gobert had a highlight dunk and made two blocks early in the third quarter that set the tone for the rest of the game. The much-maligned Jazz bench had one of its most productive games of the season.
Mudiay may have had his best game in a Jazz uniform, scoring 13 points and — more importantly — looking to move the ball. Green had 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting, Niang had his three 3-pointers for 9 points, and Ed Davis provided some bright spots defensively.
And then there were Ingles and Mitchell. The two players were aggressive early and never really stopped. Mitchell scored eight points on perfect 4-of-4 shooting in the first quarter and had 17 points by halftime, working more as an off-ball guard with Ingles running the show.
“To get off the ball I think is what opens a lot for me, allows me to create off of the ball,” Mitchell said. “I don’t have to work so hard. Just being able to make it easier on ourselves.”
On Wednesday, it was easy. That was partly because of how they played and partly because of who they played. It was the sixth straight loss for the Wolves; but after the couple of weeks the Jazz have had, they weren’t about to feel sorry for them or anybody.
Take a deep breath, Utah fans. For at least one night, the Jazz righted the ship.