Griffin’s Big Night Lifts Wolves Past Jazz
Minnesota 91, Utah 77
SALT LAKE CITY, Dec. 5 (Ticker) -- Eddie Griffin was unstoppable on both ends of the court.
Griffin collected 14 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high eight blocked shots as the Minnesota Timberwolves coasted to an 91-77 victory of the Utah Jazz.
"They kept coming to the hole and I just tried to protect it," said Griffin, who had three blocks in the fourth quarter. "My timing was on tonight for the blocked shots. That's just part of my game, I take pride in it."
"Eddie did a good job. Tonight we needed that," Minnesota coach Dwane Casey said. "You need to have one guy like him to be in the paint and protect the basket. Just think of how many points they would have gotten without Eddie."
Minnesota led 77-72 when superstar Kevin Garnett found Griffin alone under the basket for an easy two-handed dunk with 5:08 remaining in the fourth quarter, igniting a decisive 12-2 run.
"Eddie's our big X-factor off the bench. He not only gives us energy, but gives us a defensive presence," said Garnett, who scored 21 points. "He's an unbelievable defensive presence, and tonight he was like a madman."
Wally Szczerbiak put any hopes of a Utah comeback out of reach by nailing a 3-pointer with 3:51 left, giving Minnesota an 82-74 lead.
Utah scored the first five points of the third quarter to take a two-point lead, but Garnett and Szczerbiak had an answer. The two combined for 14 points in a 16-4 run that turned a small deficit into a 62-52 lead.
"Tonight we just exploded (in the second half). At the end of the game, we just had so many options," said Szczerbiak, who scored 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting. "We just spaced the floor, we had five guys who could shoot, dribble, pass. (The Jazz) didn't know what to do. They didn't know who to guard."
"Wally is doing a great job offensively, along with Kevin. I think they gave us a great 1-2 punch in that third quarter," Casey said.
Garnett had six rebounds, four assists and three steals for Minnesota, which improved to 3-0 on a four-game road trip.
Mehmet Okur scored 14 points and Matt Harpring had 10 rebounds for the Jazz, who went just 1-of-10 from 3-point range. Andrei Kirilenko had 10 points, nine boards and four blocks.
"We were right in the ballgame until the end of the fourth quarter. Minnesota executed, and pretty much did what they wanted to do," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "We got lost too many times, and when we would turn the ball over, it seemed like we couldn't make a shot."