Millsap scores 30 to lift Jazz over TimberwolvesBy LYNN DeBRUIN, AP Sports Writer Saturday, Jan 29, 2011
But after snapping a six-game losing streak with a 108-100 win over Minnesota, nobody was complaining.
“Missed baskets, made baskets, he’s going to get out there and run,” said Paul Millsap(notes), who led all scorers with 30 points on 14-of-25 shooting. “He got a lot of us tired a little bit, but it’s for a good cause.”
The Jazz (28-19) also got a strong effort from Kirilenko, who had a season-high 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Kirilenko opened the game with a 3-pointer and had a key steal late to seal the victory.
“Even with all the turnovers and the poor defense we still had our chances, but in the end they were a little too much,” said Love.
Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis credited the Jazz.
“They are the best in the league probably at maintaining their focus at the offensive end and keep moving the ball and making the defense work for 24 seconds,” he said. “We couldn’t sustain it.”
The Jazz did it without their leading scorer, showing how determined they were to get back on track after dropping to seventh in the Western Conference standings.
Utah had a season-high 20 steals, with Millsap recording a career-best six— all despite a severely bruised thumb on his shooting hand that made him a game-time decision.
“Paul was tremendous,” Kirilenko said. “I know he can play like that. When he started making those shots at the beginning, I’m like, ‘Uh, oh. I got my guy. I’m going to you.”’
The Jazz entered the game with the second-lowest scoring average in the first quarter at 22.9, but led 32-25 on Millsap’s 7-of-9 effort and Watson’s fast pace.
Watson, who started with the same energy he usually brings off the bench, had four assists in the first five minutes and seven in the first quarter.
“When you get easy baskets in transition and get layups, it gives the guys confidence,” Watson said. “It builds a rhythm and builds chemistry and makes everything easy.”
Still, the Timberwolves wouldn’t go away.
Love had only four points and six boards in the first half, but he scored seven points in the third quarter to tie it at 55.
Watson then ignited an 8-0 Jazz run.
Reserve guard Ronnie Price(notes) gave the Jazz their biggest lead a minute into the fourth quarter when he hit a 3-pointer to make it 90-79. The Timberwolves fought back again, with Luke Ridnour’s(notes) jumper pulling them within 92-91 with 7:39 remaining.
“They made a good push,” Watson said. “It’s the NBA and everyone is talented, but at the same time we’re at home and know what we’re capable of doing. You never panic but you always try to get a sense of urgency. We stayed in, kept pushing the pace and before you knew it we extended the lead.”
Love pulled Minnesota within 101-98 with three free throws after forcing Jefferson to foul out on a 3-point attempt with 1:37 left. Millsap would hit a jump shot with the shot clock winding down for a 105-100 Utah lead with 46 seconds left, then Kirilenko stole it from Michael Beasley(notes) to seal the win.
“AK was on top of his game tonight,” Millsap said of Kirilenko, who has started the past two games after a lineup shuffle left him coming off the bench midway through the losing streak. “When he plays like, that we’re a much better basketball team. He can do it all—run, pass, rebound, shoot. He did all that tonight.”
Does one win fix everything? Millsap said time will tell.
“It’s been a tough few weeks for us,” he said. “It just feels good to get back on the winning side. We’ve got a lot of positive attitudes in here and everybody feels good with this win.”
At this rate, Millsap should play every game a bruised thumb.
“Before and after the game, you feel everything, all the pains, all the nicks. But I didn’t feel it when I got on the court. I’m not going to miss a game because of a thumb.”
Notes: Williams hyperextended his right wrist early in a 39-point effort Wednesday against San Antonio though an MRI showed no structural damage. “I feel like I can’t hold the ball. If I could play, I could play… But I can’t play,” he said Friday morning. … Utah’s 32 points in the first quarter were the most in an opening quarter since Dec. 1. … Jazz reserve C Mehmet Okur(notes) did not play in the second half because of a lower-back straight. … Beasley had his fifth double-double of the season while Wesley Johnson added 19 points off the bench for Minnesota.