Jazz Hold Off Wolves in Carlos Boozer’s Return
Utah 94, Minnesota 80
MINNEAPOLIS, Feb. 10 (Ticker) -- Minnesota Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey can deal with a poor shooting night from his team. It is another story when his team gets outhustled and outworked.
Matt Harpring scored 25 points off the bench and Mehmet Okur added 19 and 10 rebounds to lift the Utah Jazz to a 94-80 triumph over the reeling Timberwolves.
Andrei Kirilenko contributed 19 points and four blocks for Utah, which snapped a four-game road losing streak and posted its first win away from the Delta Center since January 11 at Philadelphia.
"(Harpring's) a physical player," added Minnesota guard Ricky Davis, who scored 18 points. "He's like a 3-4 guy, so it's tough to play him in the post and get down and dirty with him. You have to just man up and go at it."
Trenton Hassell threw down a dunk with 6:01 remaining in the third quarter to draw Minnesota within 54-53. But Utah responded by scoring 11 straight points en route to a 19-5 run over the next 4:40, giving the Jazz permanent control of the game.
"(The difference was) the aggressiveness and energy in the cuts and screens," Casey said. "They had 18 offensive boards, which is another area of aggressiveness. ... It was the all-out aggressive play - cuts to the basket, making screens, and creating contact first."
Keith McLeod and Jarron Collins each shot 4-of-4 from the line in the decisive burst. Okur also made a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws in the key run for Utah, which went 12-of-12 from the line in the third quarter.
"We wanted to jump on them in the third quarter and not let them back into the game with the home-court advantage they have," Harpring said. "We knew that if it got close in the fourth quarter, we would be in for a game. But if we extended the lead out, we'd have a good chance of winning."
The Timberwolves were not much of a factor the rest of the way, missing 11 of their first 12 shots in the fourth quarter en route to their fifth loss in six games.
"Tough night," Davis said. "We started the game off good, but struggled. They came in and played hard. We tried to match it but couldn't get the victory."
Kevin Garnett pulled Minnesota within 84-72 with a short jumper with 4:37 to play, but Okur answered with a tough driving layup to restore order.
Harpring connected on 10-of-19 shots from the field, adding eight rebounds and a pair of steals in 30 minutes.
"I was getting some open looks tonight," Harpring said. "I was taking the jump shot when I had it, trying to stay within the offense, and we have a lot of weapons when we do that. We're good when we run an offense. We're not very good when we go 1-on-1 and get away from our offense."
The Jazz, who won for the fourth time in five games, finished with 18 offensive rebounds en route to a 25-17 advantage in second-chance points.
"We've always been a pretty good offensive rebounding team," Harpring said. "I think we're up there in the league as far as offensive rebounds, and the best are the guys who really go hard after it."
Hassell scored 19 points for the Timberwolves, who shot only 37 percent (31-of-83) from the floor. Garnett chipped in 16 points and 18 rebounds but also committed four of Minnesota's 18 turnovers.
The Jazz's aggressive play enabled them to convert 27-of-35 free throws on the night. Minnesota managed only 17 trips to the line, converting all but one. The disparity led to some frustration for the Timberwolves, as Anthony Carter and Garnett each drew technical fouls for arguing late in fourth quarter.
"We were getting frustrated with the fact that they were playing more aggressive than us," Garnett said. "Then when we did get aggressive, we were getting called for fouls and that made us a little stagnant. We can't blame the refs for anything because we gotta go out and make plays. But you feel like every time you get strong with somebody, a call's gonna get called on you."
Harpring and Kirilenko each scored 14 points in the first half as Utah carried a 50-39 lead into intermission. The Jazz dished out 15 assists against only two turnovers in the opening 24 minutes and held the Wolves to only 40 percent (18-of-44) shooting.
"(Harpring) had a great first half," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "Matt played well. He shot the ball well and got shots. One good thing about it is we were getting shots out of our offense. We were executing."
Jazz forward Carlos Boozer saw his first action since February 14, 2005, scoring two points in six minutes. The 24-year-old missed the final 31 games of last season with a strained foot and sat out the first 49 games this season with a hamstring injury.
"I felt like the first day of school or something," Boozer said. "My heart was beating a little faster, my anticipation was building up. It was like the first day of school when you go to kindergarten or something."