Timberwolves-Jazz Preview


The Utah Jazz are exceeding many people's expectations this season. Lately, the Minnesota Timberwolves are turning some heads as well.

The Timberwolves look to win four straight for the first the first time in nearly two years when they visit the Jazz on Saturday night.

A strong second half helped Minnesota to a thrilling 101-98 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. Ricky Rubio hit a tying 3 with 20 seconds left and Kevin Love's 3-pointer at the buzzer capped the Timberwolves' rally from a 15-point deficit.

After giving up 31 points in the first quarter, Minnesota (7-8) trailed 59-48 at the half, but slowed the Clippers after the break, holding them to 38.2 percent shooting in the second half while outscoring them 29-19 in the fourth quarter.

It was a second straight comeback victory for Minnesota, which rallied from a 16-point deficit to defeat Detroit 93-85 on Wednesday.

''In the last two games we've missed a ton of shots, but our defense has picked up and we've executed down the stretch and we've given ourselves a chance to win,'' Love said. ''So if we can continue to do that, eventually our offense will pick up and we'll be able to win a lot of ballgames.''

Love finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds while Darko Milicic had a team-high 22 points. Rubio had missed his first 10 shots before the critical 3-pointer. He also had six rebounds, six assists and three steals.

Rubio came in averaging 10.7 points, 8.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds and has provided some excitement for a Timberwolves franchise that has been accustomed to losing. Minnesota is looking to win four straight for the first time since Jan. 29-Feb. 6, 2010. After that, the Timberwolves lost 29 of their final 31 games that season.

After missing the playoffs last season for the first time in five years while seeing the departures of several key veterans, there were some lowered expectations for one of the NBA's most consistent franchises. However, the Jazz have gotten off to a solid start.

After winning eight of nine, Utah (9-5) saw its three-game winning streak snapped following a 94-91 loss to Dallas on Thursday. Al Jefferson scored 22 points and Paul Millsap added 16 points and 13 boards.

It was a physical matchup with Derrick Favors getting ejected late in the third quarter after throwing the ball into the stands to protest a call. Still, the play of Favors and some of his young teammates drew the praise of Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.

Second-year pro Gordon Hayward finished with nine points while rookie Alec Burks added 10. Enes Kanter, the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, played 13 minutes and had seven rebounds.

"Tyrone Corbin is doing a great job. They have lost a lot of key guys - (Andrei) Kirilenko and (Mehmet) Okur," Carlisle said. "These young guys are playing hard and playing within the system and their big guys are getting better and better."

Like the Timberwolves, there's a lot of excitement surrounding the Jazz's young players. Helping their development are the team's veterans, including Millsap.

Millsap has been on a tear recently, averaging 21.3 points and shooting 58.1 percent the last six games.

The Jazz have won three straight at home against the Timberwolves, although Love has averaged 23.3 points and 14.3 rebounds in those games.