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Utah Jazz enter All-Star break in shock after 100-98 loss to Minnesota

Published February 23, 2012 11:28 pm

Jazz blow 16-point lead in final 91/2 minutes at Minnesota, deepening midseason crisis.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Minneapolis • While the Jazz completely froze, Tyrone Corbin just watched.

Standing helplessly at the opposite end of the hardwood, the Jazz coach barely saw Minnesota's Luke Ridnour toss up a running floater in the lane as the clock ticked down Wednesday. Soon, Corbin caught sight of the ball. Then he glanced at the clock. Looked back at the ball. Again eyed the clock.

Everything was in slow, surreal, unbearable motion.

It only got worse.

When Ridnour's eight-foot teardrop sank through to somehow give the Timberwolves a 100-98 comeback win against the Jazz, Utah's worst fears had come to fruition.

The Jazz (15-17) had completely blown it. Up by 16 points with 9 minutes, 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter and unleashing one of their best fights of the season. Then, suddenly, down and out and broken apart inside a raucous Target Center.

Jazz-Timberwolves box score: http://bit.ly/wgyJN7

Corbin saw it all. The Jazz's three-quarter, full-on attack. Their 9:36 meltdown. And when Ridnour's game-winner crashed to the court with no time remaining, the coach was as shaken and shocked as he's been since taking over late last season for Jerry Sloan.

"You just go, like, 'Oh my [God]," Corbin said.

For the Jazz, that's all there was to say.

They owned the Wolves (17-17) for 38:24. They held the Wolves to 40.3 percent (31 of 77) shooting from the floor overall, while limiting All-Star Kevin Love and steadily improving center Nikola Pekovic to a combined 6-of-25 shooting. They outscored the Wolves 58-30 in the paint, 77-64 through three quarters and saw their seemingly untouchable lead swell to 18 in the second period.

Then came the collapse.

An offense that once ran free and smooth began to clank. Timberwolves backup guard J.J. Barea played like he was still being paid by the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, easily splitting Utah's breakable pick-and-roll defense and ultimately drilling 5 of 6 3-pointers for a team-high 22 points. Throw in Minnesota rookie Derrick Williams' late-game ascension, the Jazz shooting just 36.8 percent (7 of 19) from the field during the fourth, and the Timberwolves outscoring Utah 36-21 in the period, and it was all over.

The Jazz had done everything right for more than three quarters. Then they trashed it in the fourth. And by the time Corbin was publicly processing the hurt, he was doing everything from considering a major change to the starting lineup to using words he's never employed before as the Jazz's lead man.

"It's real painful now and it should hurt, and the guys are really disappointed and they should be, because we should've won this game," he said. "Coming out of the All-Star break, one of the things we talked about is, we've got to learn our lessons. We've got to feel this hurt."

It was already being felt.

After Corbin kept the locker-room doors closed longer than normal, second-year forward Gordon Hayward had his head down and was staring into nothingness when reporters were allowed in. When he looked up, he was red-eyed, appearing as affected by a loss as he's been since joining the Jazz. Earl Watson also stared into space, speaking soft and slow and holding on to every word. Al Jefferson was not available, walking out before the press entered.

"In other games, we just didn't play well," Watson said. "In this game, we played well and still came out with an L. It's a tough one. And we're going into the break — you never want to go into the break with a loss. Or anything like that — the end of the season — because it lingers for a while."

The Jazz will have four days to suffer the sting, let it go, then return to Salt Lake City staring at the challenging second half of a lockout-shortened season. The Jazz enter All-Star weekend clearly falling backward; they have lost five of six and are just 6-13 after starting 9-4. A team that began the season surprising the NBA is now last in the Northwest Division, 11th in the Western Conference — only two games ahead of 13th-place Phoenix — and a woeful 3-11 away from EnergySolutions Arena.

Before Millsap scored a game-high 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds Wednesday, he planned to completely get away during the four-day hiatus. Tune out basketball. Leave the game behind.

After watching his team fall apart Wednesday, there was little to say; nothing to do but disappear for a while, then hopefully return renewed and ready for the climb.

What happens when the Jazz break down?

"I don't know," Millsap said twice, nearly whispering.

How much did Ridnour's floater sting?

"It is what it is," Millsap said. "We blew two leads. They came back and they hit shots. We lost the game."

Briefly

Corbin said he'll spend the All-Star break considering whether or not to permanently move Howard into the starting lineup. Howard started Wednesday in place of injured guard Raja Bell, who missed his second straight game due to a strained left adductor. Howard said he's at Corbin's "disposal" and will play whatever role his coach asks. Bell was not available for comment. … Third-string Jazz point guard Jamaal Tinsley (stomach flu) did not dress.

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Storylines

R In short • The Jazz blow a 16-point fourth-quarter lead and lose on Luke Ridnour's running floater with no time left.

Key stat • Minnesota sinks 11 of 22 3-point attempts, including 5 of 9 during the fourth quarter.

Key moment • Up 93-90 with 1:54 to go, Utah allows the Wolves to close the game on a 10-5 run. Timberwolves 100, Jazz 98

FG FT Reb

Utah Min M-A M-A O-T A PF Pts

Howard 31:48 8-15 2-3 2-6 2 6 19

Millsap 38:14 10-17 5-5 1-9 2 4 25

Jefferson 37:25 8-20 2-2 5-11 1 3 18

Harris 25:30 3-7 4-4 0-2 8 6 10

Hayward 30:12 3-7 1-2 1-2 2 1 7

Favors 12:16 1-2 3-4 1-6 1 3 5

Watson 22:32 1-4 0-0 1-1 5 3 2

Miles 18:30 2-6 2-2 0-0 2 1 6

Kanter 8:04 0-2 0-0 1-2 0 0 0

Burks 15:30 3-5 0-2 2-2 2 2 6

Totals 240:01 39-85 19-24 14-41 25 29 98

Percentages: FG .459, FT .792. 3-Point Goals: 1-7, .143 (Howard 1-1, Harris 0-1, Hayward 0-1, Watson 0-1, Miles 0-3). Team Rebounds: 5. Team Turnovers: 9 (11 PTS). Blocked Shots: 4 (Millsap 2, Jefferson, Kanter). Turnovers: 9 (Hayward 3, Favors 2, Burks, Harris, Jefferson, Millsap). Steals: 15 (Hayward 3, Jefferson 3, Watson 3, Harris 2, Millsap 2, Burks, Howard). Technical Fouls: None.

FG FT Reb

Minn. Min M-A M-A O-T A PF Pts

Johnson 20:46 4-7 0-0 1-4 0 2 9

Love 37:06 3-14 4-6 3-10 3 4 10

Pekovic 32:29 3-11 9-10 8-12 0 2 15

Rubio 32:24 2-7 1-6 1-3 6 2 7

Ridnour 34:44 5-10 6-6 2-3 6 2 17

Webster 21:22 2-5 0-0 0-1 0 2 5

Beasley 8:37 1-3 0-2 0-1 0 0 2

Barea 26:07 7-12 3-3 1-4 4 3 22

Williams 20:16 4-8 4-5 3-9 0 1 13

Milicic 6:09 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 1 0

Totals 240:00 31-77 27-38 19-48 20 19 100

Percentages: FG .403, FT .711. 3-Point Goals: 11-22, .500 (Barea 5-6, Rubio 2-3, Williams 1-2, Johnson 1-3, Ridnour 1-3, Webster 1-3, Love 0-2). Team Rebounds: 14. Team Turnovers: 18 (18 PTS). Blocked Shots: 3 (Beasley, Johnson, Williams). Turnovers: 17 (Rubio 6, Love 3, Barea 2, Ridnour 2, Johnson, Milicic, Pekovic, Williams). Steals: 5 (Love 3, Rubio 2). Technical Fouls: None.

Utah 27 22 28 21 — 98

Minnesota 15 22 27 36 — 100

Attendance • 18,776

Time • 2:18.

Officials • Ron Garretson, Derrick Collins, Steve Anderson.