Apr 15, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) dribbles and Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Andrei Kirilenko (47) defends in the second quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Jazz Defeat Wolves, Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

The Jazz needed this game, and the Wolves…didn’t. It was a fairly clean game, with only 22 combined turnovers. Well, clean if you avoid looking at the unsightly shooting numbers from the home squad. All things considered, the majority of the tilt was pretty well-played, and was very competitive until a late collapse by the Wolves.

The opening minutes were ugly for the Wolves, as the Jazz easily jumped out to a 16-2 lead due to horrible shooting and a lack of rebounding from Minnesota. In fact, the first Wolves’ first basket from the field came more than five minutes into the game on a layup from Derrick Williams. Some solid defense and fast-break execution got the Wolves back into the game rather quickly, and the Wolves pulled within 24-16 by the end of the first quarter.

The Wolves’ bench played very well in the second period, bringing the Wolves all the way back to a 36-34 deficit, courtesy of a 10-4 run led by J.J. Barea. Ricky Rubio did not log any second quarter minutes, and the backcourt of Barea and Alexey Shved kept the Wolves close until a 9-0 Jazz run over the final three minutes propelled the Jazz to a 52-41 halftime advantage.

The third quarter began with some very spotty shooting from the Wolves, as the Jazz slowly extended their lead. About midway through the frame, however, the Wolves were ignited by some very good defensive pressure and well-executed double-teams on Al Jefferson, and with an incredible Derrick Williams alley-oop dunk from Ridnour mixed in the middle, the Wolves went on runs of 9-0 and 15-4, eventually pulling to within a 61-58 score.

Utah went on a short burst fueled by a number of borderline foul calls by the officials and a flurry of free throw conversions, going on a 10-2 run over the final two minutes of the quarter and carrying a 71-60 lead into the fourth quarter. The Jazz’ lead only grew from there, as Rubio left the game midway through the final frame with the deficit holding in double-digits. Garbage time leaned the Jazz’ way with Utah pulling ahead by 20 points more than once, with the final tally eventually reached 96-80.

Some quick thoughts….

– Rubio did not play well, finishing with just 6 points on 2 of 9 shooting with 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 turnover in 29 minutes of play. His shot looked extremely flat, and he simply could not draw any foul calls in the lane.

– Al Jefferson is very, very good, and just in case there was any doubt, Greg Stiemsma is simply incapable of guarding him. Big Al dropped a leisurely 22 points on the Wolves’ defense, and neither Steamer nor Dante Cunningham stood much of a chance. The Jazz didn’t shoot particularly well from the perimeter, which in part allowed the Wolves to stay close for much of the game.

– The Wolves had another horrific night from long-range, shooting 2 for 17 (11.8%) from three-point land. The only makes were two wide-open shots by Barea in the second quarter. The fact that I can remember that easily off the top of my head means that the Wolves were really, really bad from deep.

– The Wolves will be in San Antonio to face the Spurs for the season finale on Wednesday night at 7:00 CST.

Tags: Al Jefferson J.J. Barea Minnesota Timberwolves NBA News Ricky Rubio Utah Jazz

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