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Timberwolves 98, Jazz 72

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- Feast or famine, that's the way it goes for a Minnesota Timberwolves team that either loses by a little or wins by a whole lot.

The same team that still hasn't won a game decided by four points or fewer this season clobbered the Utah Jazz 98-72 on Saturday night at Target Center.

The Wolves limited the Jazz to 23 first-half points, led by 28 before halftime and by as many as 36 after intermission against a Utah team that won by 21 points in Detroit the night before.

The Wolves, meanwhile, on Friday lost 94-89 at Toronto -- their 12th loss in 13 games decided by five points or fewer -- while the Jazz thumped the Pistons.

The Wolves ended a three-game losing streak and got back within two games of .500 (19-21).

The Jazz's 72 points were a season-low by a Wolves opponent -- by nine points.

The Wolves did so by lapping the Jazz in scoring by late in the second half and by pounding them in the paint, 50-18, thanks to a 27-point night from starting center Nikola Pekovic and an 18-point, 13-rebound game from forward Kevin Love.

The game unofficially became a blowout when rookies, forward Shabazz Muhammad and center Gorgui Dieng, entered the game midway through the fourth quarter and Wolves reserves, center Ronny Turiaf and point guard J.J. Barea, posed for pictures with a courtside fan during a timeout.

Point guard Alec Burks led the Jazz with 18 points.

The Jazz made just 8 of 39 field-goal attempts (18.2 percent) before halftime and their 23 first-half points were fewest ever scored by a Wolves opponent in a first half and two points away from fewest scored in any half. Indiana scored 21 points in the second half against the Wolves in a 2006 game.

The Wolves led by as many as 36 points and they now lead the league in 30-point leads this season. They have had such a lead in 10 games this season. Next on the list: San Antonio six times, Oklahoma City four, and Dallas, Portland and the Los Angeles Clippers three times each.

The Wolves had 30-point or more leads just six times in the last eight seasons combined before this one.

Wolves starting point guard Ricky Rubio sat for the entire fourth quarter for the third consecutive game, except this time it wasn't because coach Rick Adelman preferred Barea's energy and offensive threat.

This time Rubio and his other four fellow starters sat and watched during the fourth quarter because the Wolves already led 79-45 at the end of three quarters.

NOTES: Jazz F Gordon Hayward missed his fourth consecutive game because of a hip flexor. The last time Hayward played, he scored a career-high 37 points and had 11 rebounds and seven assists in a Jan. 7 upset victory over Oklahoma City. ... Utah rookie PG Trey Burke is the latest success story many Timberwolves fans felt got away. The Jazz traded the 14th and 21st picks on draft night last summer to the Wolves for the No. 9 pick, which they used to select Burke while the Wolves took F Shabazz Muhammad and C Gorgui Dieng. Burke is a Rookie of the Year contender while Muhammad and Dieng have played very little. ... Utah coach Tyrone Corbin returned to Minneapolis on Saturday, the day the city deflated the Metrodome stadium across town from Target Center to make room for construction of a new Minnesota Vikings stadium. Corbin played for the Timberwolves in their inaugural 1989-90 season when the team played at the Metrodome and set an NBA attendance record. "This was special, man," Corbin said. "Every night, the fans came out. The weather, being so cold, it didn't bother them. ... It was a fun time to be around."
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