MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—If Minnesota Timberwolves fans had a hard time putting up with all the losing during the first 75 games of this season, these last six are REALLY going to be rough.
Carlos Boozer had 30 points and nine rebounds and Mehmet Okur had 19 points and 13 boards to lead the Utah Jazz to a 103-95 victory over the Timberwolves on Friday night in the first game of Minnesota’s youth movement.
Coach Dwane Casey played star Kevin Garnett just 24 minutes, handing the reins to a group of youngsters to see what they are made of, and drawing the ire of the hometown crowd in the process.
“I thought tonight is what it’s going to be like for the rest of the year,” Casey said. “It’s tough on our fans, but we’ve got to get our young players ready for next year and the future.”
Deron Williams added 13 points and five assists for the Jazz, who entered the night in 10th place in the West, four games behind eighth-place Sacramento.
“Until they say we can’t make it, we’ll keep chipping away, and try to win and hold up our end,” Boozer said.
Thanks to Casey’s pledge to play his younger players more down the stretch of another lost season, the Jazz had it relatively easy in the fourth quarter.
Leading by three points to start the period, the Jazz slowly increased their lead to nine as Garnett watched from the bench.
Devin Brown’s free throw gave Utah a 92-83 lead with 6:07 to play, prompting boos from the hometown crowd.
With fans chanting, “We Want KG!” as Utah built its lead in the fourth, Garnett sat on the bench quietly, staring blankly ahead.
“He’s the coach. I do what the coach tells me,” Garnett said. “I can’t even remember the last time I played 24 minutes. My knees are thanking Case at this point.”
The last time Garnett saw so few minutes was Feb. 26 against Memphis. He played only 23 minutes, but that’s because he was ejected in the third quarter for throwing the ball into the stands.
Garnett, who finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds, sat the entire second quarter, an extreme rarity in Minnesota over the past 11 seasons, then sat the entire fourth as well while Marko Jaric, Trenton Hassell, Justin Reed, Eddie Griffin and Rashad McCants tried to cut into Utah’s lead.
They couldn’t hack it against a team still fighting for the playoffs.
Boozer, who scored 30 points for the third time since returning to the starting lineup 12 games ago, once again led the way down the stretch.
He scored five straight points for the Jazz, the last a pretty touch shot from the baseline for a 97-91 lead with 3:19 to play.
Two minutes later, Boozer sneaked behind the Timberwolves and caught a full-court pass for a dunk, giving the Jazz an insurmountable 102-95 lead.
“That’s the Boozer we hoped for at the beginning of the year,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
Again, the crowd started chanting, “KG! KG!” But Casey stuck to his guns, and may have helped the team’s future in more ways than one.
When the team traded Sam Cassell and a No. 1 draft pick to the Los Angeles Clippers for Marko Jaric in the offseason, that draft pick was lottery protected. If the Timberwolves earn a lottery pick that is 10th or better, they keep the selection. If it is 11th or worse, the Clippers get it.
“It’s about progress,” said Garnett, who was notified of the game plan before tip-off. “The more you play, the more you progress. … I can see where he’s trying to develop some of this younger talent we have right here.”
Reed scored a career-high 18 points, McCants had 17 points and Banks had 14 points and six assists for the Wolves, who lost for the third time in a row, including two ugly road losses to lowly Charlotte and Atlanta.
“As a coach, I see the bigger picture and they do, too,” Casey said. “This time next year, our fans should be thanking us.”
Boozer was inactive for the first 49 games of this season with a strained left hamstring, but has been proving his worth since returning. He also had 27 points and 17 rebounds in a close loss to San Antonio on Tuesday night.
“I have much more confidence in being able to play without the fear of it tearing on me again,” Boozer said. “Now I’m able to have an impact.”
Timberwolves PG Anthony Carter missed his second straight game with a sore right foot. He had an MRI on Friday afternoon and the Timberwolves said he is day-to-day. … A couple from Caledonia, Minn., got married during a halftime ceremony. The bride wore white, and so did the groom—a white Garnett jersey, that is.