Finishing kick pushes Jazz past Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS -- After the Minnesota Timberwolves erased an 11-point deficit and took a lead midway through the fourth quarter Monday night, Jazz coach Quin Snyder didn’t take a timeout to stop the momentum. The Utah players didn’t panic.
The Jazz went down to the other end of the court, and Rudy Gobert made a layup. A stop on the defensive end was followed by a layup from Gordon Hayward. Methodically, Utah just remained focused on its plan.
The relatively experienced Jazz provided a lesson to the young Timberwolves in managing a fourth quarter.
Gobert scored 16 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end, and Utah used an 11-0 run to pull away for a 112-103 victory.
“I think it’s maturity,” Snyder said. “There’s some guys out there that didn’t get rattled. George Hill, tonight, didn’t play well the first half and really dug his way out of it, and ended up playing a very, very good game. I thought Boris (Diaw) gave us an anchor.”
Hill and Hayward each had 24 points for the Jazz. Hill added eight rebounds and four assists, and Trey Lyles scored 13 off the bench as Utah (10-8) won its third game in a row.
“Not getting crazy,” Diaw said was a key to recovering after losing the lead. “Finishing the games is something that we’ve got to get better at and keep improving. The last minutes are crucial. Even if you play pretty good the whole game, the last three minutes when it’s neck to neck, you’ve got to be able to do it, and tonight we did.”
Minnesota has let plenty of leads slip away in an increasingly frustrating season. This time, the Wolves were the team coming back, but they couldn’t finish the game.
Zach LaVine finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Timberwolves, who committed 15 turnovers. Karl-Anthony Towns added 19 points and 12 rebounds for Minnesota, which lost for the fifth time in six games.
“The second quarter was a disaster,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Fourth quarter, disaster. Thirteen blow-bys in the second half. Yeah, not good.”
Minnesota (5-12) trailed by five points heading into the fourth quarter but tied the game on a driving dunk by Shabazz Muhammad, who scored eight of his 10 points in the period.
Tyus Jones hit a 3-pointer to pull the Timberwolves ahead momentarily at 83-82. However, Utah recovered to beat Minnesota for the fourth straight time.
“We’re not playing aggressive,” Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio said. “It’s tough. Defense has to come every night and it’s supposed to be the key for this team to take off, but it’s not right now.”
Gobert blocked three shots, and his length gave the Timberwolves fits on both ends. Gobert had six offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone. The Jazz outscored Minnesota 60-44 in the paint.
“The thing that Rudy’s doing is he’s playing with more composure,” Snyder said, “so he didn’t get frustrated when he didn’t get the first one and he put it back in. I think there was one possession where he didn’t finish, but he finished the next time. Again, that’s a sign of his progress and maturity.”
Minnesota withstood Utah’s league-best defense early, even as Gobert was forcing the Timberwolves to alter shots inside. Minnesota shot 10 of 20 and had just one turnover in the first for a 27-22 lead. The Timberwolves did so even with Towns limited to just five minutes in the quarter because of two early fouls.
Utah chipped away at the lead quickly in the second, and the teams went back and forth until the Jazz finished the half on a 5-0 run and led 50-45 at the break.
“We’re missing something,” Thibodeau said. “112 points, 50 percent shooting. You can’t win like that. I know that. Reckless fouls. We’re whacking down. They’re fouls. No discipline.”
NOTES: Utah’s Boris Diaw started at power forward for the second straight game and finished with seven points and five rebounds. F Derrick Favors missed his sixth consecutive game with a left knee bone contusion and didn’t travel with the team. Diaw made his sixth start overall this season. The Jazz have used 10 different starting lineups this season, the second most in the NBA behind Dallas. ... Minnesota C Karl-Anthony Towns blocked a shot for the 24th consecutive game, tied for the second-longest streak in club history. Kevin Garnett had streaks of 26 and 24 games with a block in the 1996 season. ... Utah started play with the league’s best defense, allowing the fewest points per game (92.8) and the lowest field goal percentage (42.3 percent). ... The Timberwolves had the best first-half offensive rating (116.2) and were second in first-half field-goal percentage (49.9) and 3-point accuracy (42.9 percent).