Friday's game in Salt Lake City began with the Utah Jazz fans giving Rudy Gobert a hero's welcome. It ended with the Wolves giving the Jazz the bum's rush.
It was Gobert's first game back where he began his career. And he responded, with a 22-point, 13-rebound double-double. But he was not alone on a night when the Wolves offense hummed and the defense did enough against the NBA's third-best offensive attack in a 118-108 victory.
"I am really proud of these guys,'' Wolves coach Chris Finch told reporters. "They played well. The Jazz kept coming at us, like we knew they would. But we kept matching them, play-for-play, when it mattered.''
The numbers: D'Angelo Russell had another impressive night. He scored 20 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. In the final 12 minutes he made all seven of his shots, all six of his three-pointers, almost single-handedly holding off a Jazz team that, playing without two starters, had erased a double-figure Wolves lead, pulled within a point three times and were within two with 3:14 left.
"We got a talented group,'' Russell said. "It forces teams to over-help sometimes. And when we're willing to make that pass, it allows opportunities out there. … It can be anybody's night. It was mine tonight.''
He wasn't alone. Kyle Anderson, starting place of the injured Karl-Anthony Towns, had a Swiss-army-knife kind of evening. He scored 15 points on 4-for-5 shooting. He had 12 assists, seven rebounds. His fourth-quarter block on Kelly Olynyk's dunk attempt was a marvel. Anderson had seven fourth-quarter assists, the reason the Wolves were so effective against the Jazz zone.
Six Wolves players — including all five starters — scored in double figures on a night when the Wolves (13-12) shot 53.3% overall and made 14 of 35 threes while getting their second straight victory.
Utah (15-13) was led by ex-Wolf Malik Beasley's 23 points.
Down 15 at the half, the Jazz pulled within three entering the fourth. And despite Russell's heroics — he scored 12 of the Wolves' first 14 points in the fourth quarter — the Jazz kept coming.
Down eight after Anthony Edwards hit a three with 4:36 left, Beasley scored, then Olynyk hit a three. After a Wolves turnover, Mike Conley hit a three with 3:14 left. The 8-2 run made it a two-point game.
But out of a timeout Russell hit another three. The Wolves got a stop and Russell hit yet another three. And the Wolves were off.
Gobert had eight fourth-quarter points. Edwards, who struggled with his shot, scored five of his 14 in the fourth.
Russell, who struggled a bit with his shot early in the season, has found his stride. Finch said he asked Russell to be more of a table-setter when the season began, and that might have gotten him out of his shooting rhythm.
"Honestly I had the wrong approach,'' Russell said. "I was trying to be too focused on being a point guard instead of a basketball player. … That's never really been my thing. I kind of just play basketball freely and have fun.''
He had fun Friday, making quick decisions. With Anderson penetrating the defense and acting like a very tall point guard, Russell did a lot of catching and shooting, and every shot late looked true.
Over the past three games Russell has scored 85 points, shooting 62% overall and making half his three-point attempts.
"He's just really locked in on his shot right now,'' Finch said. "It's clean when he's letting it go. Guys did a good job of finding him against that zone. He's playing with a lot of confidence right now, which is good to see.''
The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.