The reference was not to the guard’s recent hot shooting, but that the native of Serbia is dating Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima.
The romance certainly hasn’t hurt Jaric’s play.
He scored 21 points and the Timberwolves protected a big lead for a change to get their second victory of the season, 103-94 over the New Orleans Hornets on Monday night.
Having scored over 20 points in two straight games, Jaric smiled when told teammates had insinuated that his relationship with Lima had been a source of inspiration.
“Maybe that’s the thing, I don’t know,” Jaric said. “They can joke for now. We won, so that’s fine.”
The Timberwolves hadn’t had much to smile about lately; they came in on a five-game losing streak. Their most recent loss was among the most painful as they blew a 21-point lead at home against Atlanta on Saturday.
Minnesota started fast again in New Orleans, but didn’t fold this time.
“We acted much more mature in the third and fourth quarter,” Jaric said. “We definitely felt we needed to change something. We played well, we feel confidence, we just need to learn how to close the games. I just hope we made the first step.”
Reserve Sebastian Telfair scored 20 points for the Timberwolves, while Walker scored 17, hitting three 3-pointers and following his own miss for a key basket with 1:04 to go to stifle New Orleans’ last-gasp rally.
Al Jefferson added 14 points for Minnesota (2-10), which led by double digits for most of the game and won its first road game of the season.
“Coach did a great job of showing us the difference of the first half and the second half against Atlanta,” Jefferson said. “We refused to come out there and let them make a run. That was embarrassing what we did on our home floor last game. That’s how you lose your fans.”
Chris Paul scored 31 points for New Orleans, which never led, had trouble getting inside and threw up a lot of ugly shots during the first three quarters.
“We are not playing smart,” Hornets forward David West said. “Tonight we had a lot of shooting turnovers and bad misses that led to baskets for them.”
Minnesota shot 52 percent from the field and was 8-of-18 on 3-pointers, while the Hornets shot 41.9 percent and went 7-of-22 from long range.
The Hornets have played before mostly small crowds in New Orleans this season and, coincidentally or not, their play at home has often reflected the lack of energy in the arena. A crowd of 8,393 showed up to watch the Hornets (10-6) fall to 3-4 in New Orleans
“It was a bad loss for our guys to come out and start the game the way we started,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “There was just not a sense of urgency and Minnesota played harder than we did. We deserved what we got, which was a good whipping.”
Minnesota, meanwhile, has seen a more promising trend in the play of Jaric, who has scored in double figures in three straight games.
“I just feel confident,” said Jaric, now in his sixth season. “I see the team needs me, Coach feels confidence in me, and I just try to us my opportunity.”
Minnesota played with confidence team-wide in the clutch, looking much better than their dismal record.
When New Orleans had trimmed a 23-point deficit to 14 on Stojakovic’s tip-in midway through the third quarter, Walker and Telfair responded with consecutive 3-pointers to push Minnesota’s lead to 76-56.
When Paul’s jumper early in the fourth quarter got New Orleans as close as 76-63, Minnesota punched right back with a 9-2 run capped by Ryan Gomes’ 3-pointer.
Against Atlanta, Minnesota shot 65.8 percent during the first half and led by as many as 21 points before falling apart.
Against the Hornets, Minnesota led 47-24 after Jaric’s right wing jumper with 5:35 to go in the second quarter. At that point, Minnesota was shooting 66.7 percent from the field.
Jaric had had 12 points in the half, which he ended with a 3-pointer that gave Minnesota a 58-37 lead.
Hornets C Tyson Chandler fouled out and finished with nine points and seven rebounds, marking his fifth straight game without getting 10 rebounds. … The game marked the second meeting of these teams, with New Orleans having won the first 100-82, on Nov. 17 in Minnesota. … The Timberwolves shot 61 percent from the field for the first half. … Minnesota is 1-4 on the road.