Utah Jazz cruise to much-needed win over Minnesota
Tyrone Corbin received everything he asked for. Not on Christmas, but an average Wednesday, the second box on the calendar. His team played at a faster pace and made baskets at a higher rate, and did so with ramped up intelligence and flair. They were balanced and unselfish.
Former Jazz All-Star Andrei Kirilenko played well but not too well.
There was so much good, it was easy to forget that Wednesday was actually one of the worst days of the Jazz's season.
If only winning cured everything, including an injured thumb.
Ninety minutes before the Jazz commenced their 106-84 drubbing of Kirilenko and his Minnesota Timberwolves, the team announced that point guard Mo Williams will undergo surgery on his right thumb Friday and will miss a minimum of six weeks.
Bad news begets bad news. Before Wednesday, the Jazz (16-17) had been dreadful, losers of seven of nine games and three in a row.
"We could have got good news all week," Al Jefferson said. "We still needed a win."
If they can summon what worked for them against the T-Wolves, they may be just fine.
Gordon Hayward came off the bench to lead six Jazz players in double figures with 17 points. Enes Kanter added 15 points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes before spraining his ankle in the final moments of the game. Paul Millsap, three nights after being benched for the fourth quarter of a loss to the Clippers, scored 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
The Jazz turned a nice 53-45 halftime lead into an all-out laugher by forcing nine straight stops to start the third quarter on an 11-0 run.
They were effective in transition, pushing the tempo and finishing plays with dunks and layups. Utah outscored Minnesota, which was without Ricky Rubio for the second straight game, 56-36 in the paint and 25-8 in transition.
Before the game, Corbin said the Jazz needed to find speed to replace Mo Williams. Speed granted.
"That all starts defensively for us," Hayward said. "When we get stops, then we can run and we're able to use some of our athleticism."
Minnesota committed only 12 turnovers, but the Jazz forced seven steals and turned those turnovers into 15 points.
The game marked Kirilenko's first time back at EnergySolutions Arena after playing the first 10 seasons of his career with the Jazz. After being received warmly during pregame introductions, the 31-year-old Kirilenko finished with 12 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes.
"There's a lot of memories," Kirilenko said "Every fan for 10 years has some good moments, and I have a lot of good moments here. So it's very nice to play against this crowd. They've been very friendly."
However, Kirilenko was just one of many Timberwolves the Jazz held in check. All-NBA forward Kevin Love finished with a team-high 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting.
The T-Wolves finished just 34.5 percent from the field while the Jazz made 49.4 percent of their shots.
Even without Mo Williams, it was the kind of feel-good performance needed for a team that, before the game, didn't feel so good.
"Everybody's heartbroken about Mo," Derrick Favors said. "But we know he's going to be all right. He's a tough guy. He's going to be cool. So we just come out there and play like he was with us."
And even though he wasn't, the Jazz were, for a night, just fine.
"This is who we have," Corbin said. "Can't feel sorry for ourselves, we can't look around the corner and see what's going to happen. This is who we have, and we have to figure out how we can be as good as we can be with this group right now."
O Utah posts its 2nd-widest margin of victory of the season.
• Gordon Hayward leads the Jazz with 17 points off the bench.
• Ex-Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko records 12 points and 7 rebounds in his first game back in Salt Lake City.
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