Wolves Dropped by Jazz
Jazz 108 (28-19) - Timberwolves 100 (10-36) | Energy Solutions Arena
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How it happened:
UTAH – In a back-and-forth battle, Minnesota could not take advantage of a Jazz squad without their best player and fell 108-100 on Friday night. Deron Williams was a gametime scratch due to a right wrist injury but in true Utah-style, head coach Jerry Sloan had his team well prepared for the pesky Wolves.
The contest featured several runs heading into the decisive fourth quarter. At the seven-minute mark, Luke Ridnour buried a jumper off a pick-and-pop to knock down the Jazz lead to just one point. However, over the final seven minutes Minnesota only connected on 1-for-12 from the floor and committed four turnovers while the Jazz executed effectively down the stretch.
The Jazz received a big boost from their frontcourt duo of Paul Millsap and Andrei Kirilenko. The two forwards combined for 57 points, 14 rebounds, and nine assists as Utah snapped a six-game skid.
“Our defense wasn’t connected. We weren’t focused at that end. We knew against this team that we were going to have to do a great job maintaining our focus defensively because they do a great job of executing, moving without the basketball and they continue to pass the ball and move and cut. They are best in the league probably at maintaining their focus at the offensive end and just keep moving the ball and making the defense work for 24 seconds. We couldn’t sustain it.” -- head coach Kurt Rambis
Leader of the Pack:
Kevin Love shrugged off a lackluster first half where he scored four points and grabbed six boards. Over the final two quarters, the All-Star hopeful returned to form and finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Love continued his remarkable double-double streak to 32 straight games and now owns a league-leading 41 for the season. The Wolves power forward faced his former teammate Al Jefferson on numerous possessions, including a savvy play that resulted in Big Al’s sixth foul. Love used a pump fake to lift Jefferson in the air and he snuck under the Jazz big man to get the call. Jefferson left the game with eight points and 14 rebounds in his second game against Minnesota this year. Love matched his season averages and drilled 10-of-11 free throw attempts one day after the Wolves launched his All-Star campaign.
Michael Beasley posted his own double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes of action. In the first half, Beasley went to work on Kirilenko, who is considered one of the top on-ball defenders in the league. Beasley utilized his quick cross over and pull-up jumper to elevate over Kirilenko’s long outstretched arms.
How about three second quarter highlights? Minnesota quickly silenced the home crowd by jumping out on the fastbreak and connecting on a variety of exciting plays. Early in the second stanza, Beasley streaked in the open floor, hit Jonny Flynn on a no-look pass, and the point guard dished to Wes Johnson for the layup. At the 7:40 mark, Flynn floated an alley-oop dime to Johnson for the emphatic finish and cut Utah’s lead to four points. Finally, Flynn displayed his Syracuse swagger, reaching the lane off a euro-step drive and bucket with 3:24 remaining the half.
Johnson has seemed to regain his confidence after a brief stretch of unproductive games. On Friday night, the rookie looked terrific with 14 of his 19 points in the first half. When Utah dropped into a 2-3 zone during the second quarter, Johnson took advantage by drilling a couple of midrange jumpers and 3-pointers. He also raced out in transition to capitalize on open floor opportunities, which helped keep Minnesota afloat throughout the first half.
One team will snap a losing streak at the Target Center with the Raptors marching into Minneapolis on Saturday night. Toronto has lost 10 straight games after a loss to Milwaukee on Friday. Tipoff set for 7 PM and radio coverage on 1130 AM.
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