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Jazz 97, Timberwolves 93

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- It took a while, but the Utah Jazz finally arrived at Target Center on Wednesday night.

Early in the second quarter, the Jazz -- perhaps a bit hung over from Tuesday's home victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder -- finally woke up from a quarter-long offensive stupor to assert themselves.

Led by 21 points by Paul Millsap, 20 from Al Jefferson and 11 from DeMarre Carroll, the Jazz shrugged off a 5-for-20 first quarter to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 97-93 in the final game for each team before the All-Star break.

The Jazz (30-24) enter the break on a two-game winning streak. The Wolves (19-31) enter it having lost 16 of 19 games.

Minnesota had three players record double-doubles: guard Ricky Rubio (18 points, 10 assists), Derrick Williams (24 points, career-high 16 rebounds) and Nikola Pekovic (19 points, 13 rebounds). Luke Ridnour scored 18.

Slow start? Utah's 10 first-quarter points were the least by a Wolves opponent this season. However, once the Jazz got back into the game, they were hard to stop. Utah led by two at halftime and by five after the third quarter.

The Jazz asserted control with less than two minutes left in the third quarter. Ridnour hit two free throws with 1:52 left in the quarter to give the Wolves a 61-60 lead. Utah finished the quarter on an 8-2 run, then started the fourth on an 8-3 run to go up by 10.

Minnesota had one more run left. Down 90-77, Pekovic scored, then Williams had a three-pointer and a dunk, the latter coming with 1:03 left, cutting Utah's lead to 90-84.

After a Jazz turnover, Rubio fed Pekovic for a layup with 50 seconds left that cut the lead to four. Following two free throws by Earl Watson, Pekovic scored again with 25.8 seconds left to make it a four-point game.

Millsap made one of two free throws, and then Millsap fouled Williams on a 3-point attempt. Williams made all three free throws with 19.3 left to pull the Wolves within two. However, Minnesota couldn't get closer than that. Utah's Randy Foye made four free throws down the stretch, the last two with 4.1 seconds left.

Minnesota led 17-10 after one, thanks to seven points by Ridnour. The Wolves ended the quarter on a 13-2 run, which went to 16-2 on J.J. Barea's 3-pointer early in the second that gave the home team a 20-10 lead.

But the Jazz, finding its rhythm, responded with a 14-0 run to take a 24-20 lead on Millsap's two free throws.

From then through halftime, it was back and forth, with the Jazz leading 42-40 entering the third.

NOTES: With the NBA trade deadline nearing, Wolves coach Rick Adelman said he hopes his team looks hard at deals that could make the squad better, with an emphasis on long-term improvement rather than a short-term bandage. "I think, when healthy, we have a good core group," Adelman said. He added that shooting and size at guard are priorities. ... Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward missed his 10th game with a shoulder issue. He is expected to return to practice after the All-Star break. ... Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko missed his fifth game with a quad strain, but he is expected back after the break. ... Minnesota guard J.J. Barea continues to play despite a sprained left foot. "Just got to get through this one tonight," he said before Wednesday's game, "go to Puerto Rico, put it in some hot water, hot sand and I'll be back ready to go."
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