Utah Jazz outlast Timberwolves, head into break with win
By Steve Luhm
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Feb 13 2013 10:07PM
Minneapolis • A not-so-funny thing happened to the Jazz on their way to the All-Star break.
Utah nearly squandered a 13-point lead in the final three minutes against Minnesota on Wednesday night at the Target Center.
Fortunately for the Jazz, they held on down the stretch and defeated the Timberwolves, 97-93.
Paul Millsap scored 21 points and Al Jefferson added 20 as the Jazz headed on the annual midseason mini-vacation with thoughts of a two-game winning streak — not a mind-boggling loss — dancing in their heads.
"It’s a win," said coach Tyrone Corbin. "It’s a great win for us. The guys toughed it out. ... We hung in there and, as a result, we got a chance to win the ball game."
The Jazz overcame a brutal start — they missed 20 of their first 25 shots — and seemed to take control midway through the fourth quarter.
Alec Burks’ three-point play gave Utah an 84-69 with 6:51 remaining.
After Minnesota rallied within seven, the Jazz pulled away again and took a 90-77 lead on Burks’ dunk with 2:55 left.
This time, the Timberwolves’ comeback got them considerably closer.
It was 93-88 with 19.3 seconds to play when Millsap was called for fouling Derrick Williams on a 3-point shot.
"I don’t think I touched him," Millsap said. "But he made it to the line, he made three free throws and made the game close."
After a timeout, Corbin subbed Randy Foye for Burks.
The Jazz did a good job of getting the ball to Foye, an 80-percent free-throw shooter who nailed four straight in the final 15.6 seconds.
"That’s why I put him back in the game — to give him that opportunity," said Corbin. "We knew they had to foul, and we wanted to get the ball to a guy we feel comfortable shooting those [free throws]."
Foye had been sitting the entire fourth quarter, but he calmly made the free throws when it mattered the most.
"I was stiff, but I knocked them down like I always do at the end of games," he said. "This was definitely an important game going into the break."
Coming off a 109-94 win over Oklahoma City just 24 hours earlier, the Jazz were as flat as Minnesota farmland in the first quarter.
In one stretch, Utah converted only one of 14 possessions and the Timberwolves built a 17-10 lead.
"The one thing we didn’t do was feel sorry for ourselves," Corbin said, "even though we were kind of running in mud at the beginning. ... Fortunately there was a lot of time left."
Said Jefferson, "I was thinking, ‘It’s not our quarter,’ not, ‘It’s not our night.’ We knew we were going to get it together."
The Jazz rallied to take a 42-40 halftime lead. They finished the third quarter well, too, and took a 68-63 advantage into the final 12 minutes.
Despite leading by as many as 15, however, Utah found itself on the ropes down the stretch.
"We had to weather the storm," Corbin said, "but it was a good win for us. ... We didn’t play our best tonight, but we hung in there and fought and won a tough ball game against a team that’s playing very hard."