Foye's Late Free Throws Sink Wolves' Comeback, 97-93
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The Wolves shot 35 percent against the Jazz in their first matchup of the year, and Wednesday night’s rematch was hardly different.
Despite shooting just 34 percent, the Wolves rallied in the fourth and set the stage for another miraculous finish against Utah, if you remember last year’s buzzer-beater from Luke Ridnour. But a dominating team performance in the post and clutch free throws from Randy Foye pushed Utah over the edge in the final score, 97-93.
“Once again we came back with five minutes to go and played our tails off,” coach Rick Adelman said. “We tried to get back in it but our guys just need to understand that we don't have that big of margin of error.”
The game started at a snail’s pace, as the Wolves led 17-10 at the end of the first quarter. Utah made just five field goals and shot 25 percent in the game’s first 12 minutes, incredibly futile marks for an NBA contest. Minnesota didn’t do much better, although one of the early bright spots for the home club was Williams grabbing nine rebounds in the first frame.
Wolves vs Jazz
The contest remained tight through the third quarter, as the lead changed six more times. Utah continued to received strong play from Millsap and Al Jefferson, the latter of which scored 12 points in the third. Then, to make their line even bigger, they brought the 6-foot-10 Derrick Favors in as the second forward. Despite their struggles from outside (just 18 percent all game), the Jazz bullied the Wolves down low and converted at a high rate, finishing the third with a 68-63 lead.
The Jazz crept away in the final segment, building their lead to as much as 15 at one point. The biggest factor had to be the overwhelming post presence for Utah, as they outscored Minnesota 54-30 in the paint.
“They are a hard team to play,” Adelman said. “We know and we talked about it. They are very physical. They are going to grab and they are going to foul. You have got to play through it.”
With the help of a timely 7-0 run, Minnesota managed to trim the deficit to just two points in the final minute, but former Timberwolves player Randy Foye bested his old squad with four straight free throw conversions to keep a buffer.
“It’s the same thing like many previous games,” Pekovic said of the late comeback attempt. “We respond too late; we just need to have a good break and come back and try to play hard from the very beginning.”
Even with a poor night shooting as a team, some Wolves players boasted nice stat lines. Ricky Rubio was one rebound away from his first career triple-double, posting 18-points, 10 assists, nine boards and four steals. Derrick Williams had a game- and season-high 24 points along with a career-high 16 rebounds. Wednesday was Williams’ fourth double-double of the year.
“I just try to be more consistent on the court,” Williams said. “With hitting shots or rebounding. I can’t have games like this and then come out the next time and have five points and a few rebounds. I want to be more consistent each and every night.”
Along with Rubio and Williams, Pekovic recorded 19 points and 13 rebounds. Luke Ridnour also pitched in 18 points.
Al Jefferson returned to Target Center (his home for three seasons) and tallied 20 points with 11 boards. Paul Millsap scored 21 as well.
Leader of the Pack
Shooting 7-for-17, Derrick Williams had a career game tonight with a game- and season-high 24 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Scoring from both outside and inside, this was Williams' 20th game of the season in double figures and his fourth in his last five games.
“It’s a little tough on all of us,” Williams said of his team’s struggles. “We’re trying to work good together on the offensive and defensive side, and we just couldn’t close it out. We just have to play like we did in the last five minutes for the whole game. Coach is always preaching about 48 minutes, but we can’t just play like that in the last five or six.”
Highlight of the Night
Less than four minutes after tipoff, Rubio bounced a no-look pass behind himself to Luke Ridnour, who drove baseline and lobbed a pass to Derrick Williams. Williams caught the ball and slammed it past an on-looking defender.
The Numbers Game
“It’s going to really help. The guys who have problems are going to get better, and I think it’s going to be good for everybody."— Nikola Pekovic on the Wolves rehabbing over the NBA All-Star Break
Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved will travel down to Houston on Thursday to prepare for the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, taking place on Friday. Regular season action resumes on the 19th when Philadelphia comes to Minnesota.