Timberwolves 93, Jazz 91

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Pushed around for 2 1/2 quarters by the more physical Jazz, the Minnesota Timberwolves landed the final blow.

Kevin Garnett scored 25 points and made a key steal in the final minute to help the Timberwolves rally for their fifth straight victory, 93-91 over Utah on Friday night.

After trailing for much of the game, the Wolves came alive late in the third quarter to erase a 16-point deficit. Eddie Griffin’s follow-up dunk off Wally Szczerbiak’s miss with 1:48 to go gave Minnesota the lead for good at 87-85.

Both teams failed on their next two possessions, and the Jazz were going for the tying basket when Garnett stole Raul Lopez’s outlet pass. Garnett fed a breaking Sam Cassell for a layup to put the Wolves up by four.

“He got caught in the air, and I just made a good read on it,” Garnett said. “If you anticipate right, you can get some steals and I anticipated right.”

Minnesota shot 36 free throws in the game, one short of its season-high and 14 more than its average attempts per game. The Wolves shot 24 of them in the second half, when they abandoned an offense that was settling for outside jump shots and started to drive to the basket.

“The second-unit guys said, ‘If we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down fighting,”’ said Szczerbiak, part of a Minnesota bench that scored 57 points.

Garnett had nine points and six rebounds in the fourth quarter, giving Minnesota its first lead at 75-74 by hitting two free throws with 8 minutes to go. The Wolves pushed the lead to 80-74 on Cassell’s 3 with 6:45 to go, but Utah responded with an 11-3 run.

Lopez’s layup put the Jazz back up 85-83 with 2:36 to go, but Fred Hoiberg made with a jumper at the other end 11 seconds later.

Andrei Kirilenko scored 14 points to lead Utah, which lost for the 16th time in its last 18 road games.

“We played hard, but the last couple of minutes we lost our concentration a little bit,” Kirilenko said.

Cassell had 16 points in 19 minutes off the bench, in his second game back from a strained right hamstring. During one stretch in the third and fourth quarters, Minnesota reserves scored 17 straight points.

“I think all our players started hanging their head a little bit when things started to go a little tough for them,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “I don’t know how long we’re going to keep calling this a young team.”

The Wolves shot just 4-for-17 (24 percent) in the first quarter, scoring just 13 points for their worst period of the season. Their 36 points at halftime was their fewest in a game this season.

Cassell, who missed 10 games due to the hamstring before playing 15 minutes Wednesday, entered the game in the second quarter and hit four of his first five shots.

“He doesn’t care how many he misses, he’s going to take the next one,” Hoiberg said of Cassell. “That’s a great quality to have, a shooter’s mentality.”

Notes

Jazz rookie forward Kris Humphries played 2 first-half minutes in his first NBA game in his native Twin Cities, entering to a mix of cheers and boos. Humphries, who played for the University of Minnesota as a freshman before entering the NBA draft last spring, led the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding but was often criticized for selfish play. “I don’t pay any attention to that,” Humphries said. “The team is different every year. I’m glad they’re doing well.” Minnesota, which was 12-18 last year with Humphries, has started 14-5 this year. … Wolves center Michael Olowokandi played 8 minutes in his first game in the team’s last eight. He sat out a four-game suspension following a fight on Jan. 14 at Denver and did not play in the next three games.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Utah
M. Okur M. Okur
4-8,  11 Pts
10 Rebs, 5 Assists
 Minnesota
K. Garnett K. Garnett
8-17,  25 Pts
14 Rebs, 5 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists