SALT LAKE CITY - Jazz guard Gordon Hayward missed being on the court during his recent five-game absence with a strained left hip. He couldn't wait to get back in the groove, running up and down the floor while the home crowd cheered.
He missed the game but it's safe to say he didn't miss the stuff he went through Tuesday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
It certainly wasn't much of a game, that's for sure. At least not for the Jazz.
Hayward scored a game-high 27 points in his first game back from injury but it wasn't nearly enough to help Utah slow down the Minnesota Timberwolves, who rolled to a 112-97 victory - their second straight over the Jazz.
"It was good to be out there," Hayward said, speaking personally. "It was a little slow to start but for the most part it felt great, a little winded too, but it was just good being back out there."
He said it was no fun sitting behind the bench during his time away, watching his teammates play. And yet it couldn't have been much fun sitting in front of his locker after Tuesday's game, long after the majority of his teammates had left the room.
But in keeping with his always-professional attitude, the 23-year-old dutifully answered difficult questions until the very end.
It was one of those nights, not necessarily for him but definitely for his teammates; and if it happened to them, it happened to him.
"It sucks losing," he said.
The Jazz (14-29) led just once, early in the game, and quickly fell behind as the T-Wolves (20-21) blew past them in the first half. Utah rallied shortly after halftime but it didn't last long as Minnesota built a 26-point lead late in the third period.
Although the Jazz shot better from the field - 47.1 percent to 45.6 percent - they also had more turnovers and fewer assists, a clear sign they couldn't execute. Consequentially, the T-Wolves rolled to their second straight victory over their Northwest Division opponents.
They thumped the Jazz by 26 last weekend in Minneapolis as Utah shot a franchise-low 28.8 percent. Two days later they won another laugher, this time on Utah's home floor.
"It just seemed like they wanted it a little more," Jazzman Jeremy Evans said. "We just needed to work a little harder, both games."
Hayward, who missed the first game, said the Jazz simply didn't played defense well enough to stop the T-Wolves momentum.
"It goes back to us not getting stops defensively," he said. "We had our opportunities and it seemed like every time we were making a run they hit a dagger 3 and I think I remember an and-one layup, too. Those are stops that you've got to have."
Although the Jazz were spanked for the second consecutive game, they weren't exactly playing with a full deck. Hayward missed the first game with a strained left hip flexor. On Tuesday teammate Derrick Favors sat out with a similar injury - a strained right hip abductor.
"He's one of our really important defensive presences (near the basket)," point guard Trey Burke said of Favors. "Without him playing, with them having two really good bigs in Kevin Love and (Nikola) Pekovic, it's really tough to stop those guys."
Love, who leads the NBA in double-doubles, notched his 35th of the season, scoring 19 points to go along with 13 rebounds and eight assists. Pekovic, who had 27 points and 14 boards in Minneapolis, scored 18 points in the second meeting. He also added nine rebounds.
The Jazz got 18 points from Alec Burks, who returned to his role as Utah's sixth man. Evans added 10 points but no other Jazz player reached double figures.
Minnesota, meanwhile, had all five starters reach double digits, plus backup guard J.J. Barea's 15 off the bench.
The win was the T-Wolves' first in Utah since 2009.
TIMBERWOLVES 112, JAZZ 97
BEST PLAY: Richard Jefferson provides a highlight for an otherwise lowlight night for himself and the Jazz when he takes a pass on the wing, rises high and throws down a rim-shaking dunk over Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic, who pulls up when he sees Jefferson gaining momentum as he gets closer to the hoop. Interestingly, the play comes a few minutes after Jefferson and coach Tyrone Corbin have a courtside conversation in which they appear to be discussing an opportunity against the T-Wolves' defense.
BEST LINE: Minnesota's Kevin Love finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in 37 minutes of work.
KEY STAT: The Jazz (47.1) shot a better percentage than the T-Wolves (45.6) but Minnesota had only nine turnovers compared to Utah's 14.
INJURY REPORT: The Jazz got Gordon Hayward back from his left hip strain but they lost Derrick Favors to a similar condition, a right hip abductor strain. ... Minnesota's Alexy Shved fractured his nose at the end of the first quarter and did not return.
BIG, STRONG DUDE: Before the game, Favors was asked where Pekovic, the T-Wolves' starting center, ranks among the strongest players in the NBA.
"He might be THE strongest guys in the league," he said. "It's hard to push him off the block and when you try to post-up against him he'll push you all the way out to the 3-point line. He's probably THE strongest guy in the league ... or the strongest guy in the league to me."
For reference, Favors stands 6-foot-10 and weighs 268 pounds; Pekovic goes 6-11 and 285.
Pekovic wasn't quite sure where he'd rank himself.
"I don't know, I never look at myself like that," he said. "I'm just trying to do stuff, trying to (strengthen) my team. I know my body, I know I'm strong, of course. That's how I build career, that's how I'm existing in this league. But I don't know if I'm the strongest."
Asked to rank himself, Favors said: "I might be top five, that's my opinion."
ETC.: In their combined back-to-back loses to the T-Wolves, the Jazz were outscored 210-169. ... In their loss in Minnesota, the Jazz shot a franchise-record low 28.8 percent from the field. They followed it up with a more respectable 47.1 percent effort on Tuesday. ... Now 327 games into his career, Love recorded his 4,000th rebound. ... Love had yet another double-double, his 35th of the season. He leads the NBA in that category. ... The T-Wolves shot a season-high 91.7 percent from the free throw line (22-of-24). ... The Jazz shot 5-for-17 from behind the 3-point line (29.4 percent). ... Rudy Gobert blocked three shots in the first half, setting a new personal best for himself. ... Tuesday marked Utah's first home loss to the T-Wolves since Dec. 14, 2009.
UP NEXT: The Jazz are in for a rather light week. They'll next play Saturday against Washington at EnergySolutions Arena.
Contact reporter Jim Burton at 801-625-4265, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo.