This season, Timberwolves opponents have taken to a tactic of guarding center Karl-Anthony Towns with a smaller power forward and bringing help, often from the five who is guarding Jarred Vanderbilt.
This trend started last season with Utah, so much that Wolves coach Chris Finch says the staff refers to it as the "Utah defense."
The Utah defense and offense swept the Wolves away in the second half of a 136-104 Wolves loss Wednesday night at Target Center, their fourth consecutive.
Donovan Mitchell bullied the Wolves' improved defense for 36 points. December was going to be a tough stretch of the Wolves' schedule with several teams .500 or above awaiting them, and the Wolves are 0-4 since the calendar turned.
The Jazz shot 57% and was 24 of 30 from the paint while the Wolves were just 18 of 41. Utah shot 46% from three-point range (25 of 54) as it turned a one-point game at halftime into a rout that showed the Wolves, who were without D'Angelo Russell (right ankle soreness) for a second straight game, just how much they have to step up if they want to compete in this stretch.
Point guard Patrick Beverley, who scored 16 points in his return from a six-game absence because of a left adductor strain, didn't sound concerned.
"Just got to be healthy," Beverley said. "When we are healthy, we're one of the best teams in the NBA, and that's all it is, is health."
If Wednesday might have any lingering effect, it might be over how the Wolves handle the so-called "Utah defense" and offered a glimpse into the dynamic of the relationship between Anthony Edwards and Towns.
Towns had 22 points but took just 11 shots. He hit seven of them. But he took just two shots in the first half.
Edwards, who had 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting, said he was telling Towns to be quicker with his decision-making with Bojan Bogdanovic guarding him and not three-time NBA defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert.
"I told KAT the best way to beat it — you got to go quick," Edwards said. "I told him at halftime, you waiting on the double. You're telling them, 'Come double me. Now you're the best player on the floor, they're taking you out of the game. Then when they double you, they're not rotating. They staying with me and making everybody else beat you."
Edwards said he told Towns it was "disrespectful" to him that Utah was guarding him with Bogdanovic. He told Towns to play more like Philadelphia's Joel Embiid, to make decisions quicker and make it harder on the defense.
"I told KAT, you catching the ball and you holding it," Edwards said. "You waiting for the double, telling them to come double me instead of catching it and going. They can't guard you. …
"I tell him every game, every practice. You can shoot the ball, you can handle the ball, you got touch, everything. They can't guard you, bruh. If he just stop waiting on the double team, we would be a way better team."
If anything may come from Wednesday's loss, perhaps Towns will re-evaluate how he plans to attack teams that attack him that way.
That's because Towns deferring to teammates didn't work after the first quarter, when the Wolves shot 59%. Gobert was free to affect the Wolves at the rim because he didn't have to guard Towns on his own. Edwards had some thoughts about Gobert too.
"To me the best rim protector in the league is [Dallas' Kristaps] Porzingis," Edwards said. "Anytime I go against Porzingis, I don't get no layups. I don't get why we couldn't finish on Rudy Gobert. He don't put no fear in my heart. I don't know why."
Gobert and the "Utah defense" flummoxed them again. Maybe next time the Wolves will find some answers for it, even when they're not playing Utah.