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Utah Jazz defense fortifies lead against Minnesota

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Staked to an eight-point halftime lead, the Utah Jazz starters did something Wednesday night they haven’t done consistently this season.

They stopped the opponent — cold.

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With some outstanding defense that pushed Minnesota to the perimeter, the Jazz broke away from the Timberwolves in the opening six minutes of the second half and cruised to a 106-84 victory at EnergySolutions Arena.

Leading 53-45, Utah held the Timberwolves scoreless for almost five minutes in the third quarter.

Minnesota missed its first nine shots and committed a turnover during an 11-0 run by the Jazz, which put them in control.

"We talked about it," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We didn’t want to relax at all. We didn’t want to let these guys get going. We wanted to do as much as we could defensively to be aggressive. ... As a result, we kept getting good opportunities because we kept making stops."

The play-by-play of the Timberwolves’ opening possessions of the third quarter illustrates how effectively the Jazz defended them.

Andrei Kirilenko missed a 21-footer. Alexey Shved missed a 3-pointer and a 15-footer. Luke Ridnour missed two midrange jumpers. Kevin Love missed a 3-pointer and a shot from the lane.

"... We wanted to come out in the third quarter and set the tempo," Corbin said.

Marvin Williams finished with 11 points. He also had five rebounds and two blocked shots, tying a season-high.

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"I thought we established our defense early," Williams said. "The coaches told us we haven’t won the first quarter the last couple of games, so we wanted to establish ourselves defensively."

Minnesota grabbed a 24-23 lead at the end of the first quarter but, unlike in recent games, the Jazz never trailed by more than four.

"That was something we said before the game: ‘We gotta be better defensively,’ " Al Jefferson said. "When teams are shooting 60-something percent on us in the first quarter — or something like that — we know have to get better. ... So that was something we decided to do."

In the third quarter, the Jazz’s defense was even better.

"There has been times we’ve had slippage after halftime," Williams said. "So we wanted to come out and set the tone. We wanted to get up on them and make them take tough shots. ...

"I thought we did a great job helping. If we got beat, somebody was coming over to help and somebody else was coming over to help him. It was a total team effort."

Jefferson agreed.

"One thing that I noticed was we helped the helper," Jefferson said. "... When we play like that, it’s going to be tough to beat us."

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