Williams, Jazz survive rally, finally beat Wolves

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—The Utah Jazz nearly surrendered a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead and barely hung on to beat one of the NBA’s worst teams.

The Jazz will take any road win they can get, especially against the pesky Minnesota Timberwolves.

Deron Williams(notes) had 21 points and 12 assists, and the Jazz finally beat the Wolves, 107-103 on Wednesday night.

Williams led a third-quarter surge and all five starters were in double figures as the Jazz avoided an embarrassing third consecutive loss to the lowly Wolves.

The win was only Utah’s second on the road in its last seven games. One of those victories came at New Jersey.

“We’re just happy to get this win and move on to tomorrow,” Utah forward Carlos Boozer(notes) said. “We take every road win, every win, period.”

The Timberwolves trailed by 17 with 4:30 remaining, but cut the deficit to three after a pair of 3-pointers by Kevin Love(notes) with about 35 seconds left.

Mehmet Okur(notes) missed a 3-pointer on the Jazz’s ensuing possession, but Boozer secured the offensive rebound and Williams made two of four free throws down the stretch to secure the win.

“I’m just glad to beat this team,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “It seems like it’s been a long time. They’re a tough team, they pass the ball well, they can rebound, they have guys that can shoot the ball. They’re really a tough team for us to beat.”

Al Jefferson(notes) scored 21 points for the Wolves, who took a 47-46 halftime lead. Boozer scored a quick inside basket and the Jazz opened the third quarter on a 9-1 run. Utah added a 10-0 burst later in the period to build a big enough cushion to survive the Minnesota rally.

Minnesota picked up the pace defensively late in the fourth quarter, forcing Williams into some uncharacteristic turnovers and making quick shots on the other end. But it wasn’t enough to make up for the dismal third quarter.

“Overall, our demise was probably attributed to us coming out of the locker room in the third quarter not ready to play,” Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said.

After going 1 for 10 in the first half, Boozer scored 13 points in the second and finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

“I had a horrible first half, but I tried to stay with it,” Boozer said. “I tried to stay with it and took the same shots but started making them.”

Ronnie Brewer(notes) added 20 points, including a dunk over Corey Brewer(notes) late in the game that helped slow down the Minnesota surge.

Williams also was strong defensively, limiting Jonny Flynn(notes) to just seven points after Flynn scored 28 in their last meeting. But Williams knew his team could’ve easily let this one get away.

“We started to miss some and then the turnovers. It was like, ‘Here we go again,”’ he said.

Utah had clamped down on Love before the second-year forward got hot down the stretch. Love missed seven of his first nine attempts before making his final three to finish with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. It was his 13th double-double.

“Any game like that is an opportunity missed,” Love said. “That first three and a half quarters were bad to say the least. I rebounded OK, passed OK, shot the ball terrible. That last part of the fourth quarter was fine, but other than that I had a bad day.”

Sloan said his team seized control of the game early in the second half after it started making some defensive stops, thanks in part to a stretch of playing zone. The veteran coach couldn’t explain his team’s near-collapse down the stretch, however.

“I don’t know, other than we fell asleep,” he said.

NOTES: Rambis said the acquisition of Alando Tucker(notes) from the Phoenix Suns for the seldom-used Jason Hart(notes) gives the Wolves a “free look at a high draft pick.” Rambis wasn’t sure when Tucker, the 29th pick in the 2007 draft, would make his Wolves debut, but said his mid-range game and defensive ability will be an asset. … Jazz swingman Kyle Korver(notes) missed Wednesday’s game and will also sit out Thursday’s game against Oklahoma City because of continuing pain in his surgically repaired left knee. … Williams has recorded a double-double in 10 straight games against the Wolves. … Utah had 54 field goal attempts in the first half, but shot just 35 percent.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Utah
D. Williams Deron Williams
6-12,  21 Pts
6 Rebs, 12 Assists
 Minnesota
A. Jefferson Al Jefferson
10-15,  21 Pts
9 Rebs, 4 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists

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Wednesday, Dec 30