The Wolves gave themselves chances down the stretch in this one, but couldn't pull ahead in the final seconds as the Jazz hit free throws and Minnesota missed a number of shots.
Utah went on a good run that gave them a double-digit lead for the majority of the third and fourth quarters. In fact, with roughly two-and-a-half minutes to play, the Jazz found themselves up by 13. I was listening to the Jazz broadcast and Matt Harping quipped (at that point), "well the Jazz are on their way to their 30th win of the season."
Then the Wolves went on a 9-0 run thanks to two buckets apiece from DWill & Pekovic. With 30 seconds to play the Wolves found themselves down by just four points.
Rubio missed a layup with 31 seconds to play and Earl Watson grabbed the board. He was quickly fouled by Ridnour and hit two at the line. Coming out of a timeout on the ensuing possession, Rubio found Pekovic for an easy layup to make it 88-92 with 25 seconds to play.
Utah inbounded the ball who was promptly fouled by Williams. Millsap went 1 of 2 at the line, to give the Jazz a five-point lead, but "leave the door open" for the Wolves. Out of another TWolves timeout, Minnesota found Williams in the corner for a three, he missed but was fouled by Millsap and would go to the line for three shots. He hit all three and made it just a two-point game with 19 seconds to play.
Utah took a full timeout and inbounded the ball to Foye, he was fouled and they went to the line for two shots--making them both and bumping the Jazz lead back to 4 with 15 seconds to play. Rubio then rushed down the court and went in for a layup that was swatted by Earl Watson, they got the o-board and found Ridnour for a three, that airballed and DWill grabbed the miss. He had a scoop pass to Rubio down low who was then fouled and would go to the line for his 12th and 13th free throws. He hit both to make it a two-point game, once again, with 5 seconds to play.
They fouled Randy Foye on the inbound again and he hit two more free throws to "close the door". Rubio fired up a three at the buzzer that didn't go and the Timberwolves lost 93-97.
The TWolves got off to a great first quarter in this one--defensively, holding the Jazz to just 10 points...I don't know if that was Timberwolves D or tired Jazz-men from a big win the night before. That didn't carry over to the second quarter however, where the Jazz scored 32 to give themselves a two-point lead (40-42) at the break. Through the first half, Paul Millsap led the charge for the Jazz with 13 and Al Jefferson added 8. The TWolves got 12 points from both Williams & Ridnour and another 8 from Rubio.
Pekovic had a terrible first half, he went 0-for-5 from the field and finished with just one point. He got going in the third quarter, however. He went off for 8--and added another 10 in the fourth to give him 19 on the night.
For once, the Wolves big men BOTH turned in impressive games. Williams finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds. He struggled slightly shooting the ball on the night (7-for-17 from the field), but added another 8 points at the line (on 11 attempts) in 37 minutes. Nikola Pekovic was bad early, but he still finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and despite that 0-for-5 start, he went 7-for-11 in the second half. He also added one steal and one block in 40 minutes of action. Ricky Rubio had his best all-around game of the season. He didn't shoot the ball well from the field (3-13 FG & 0-3 3PT), but was dynamite at the line where he went 12-for-13 and finished with a near triple-double: 18 points, 9 rebounds, 10 assists, 4 steals and 1 block in 40 minutes. He did have 10 rebounds late in the game, but they 'took it away' in the final minute. Luke Ridnour also continued his VERY solid play. He had 18 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists on the night.
There have been a few trade rumors regarding Luke Ridnour lately and with his play, there's no doubting his 'stock' could be rising. One team that has reported interest is Utah (another is New York). This was as good a 'showcase' as you could hope for. Minnesota has said they are looking to get Alec Burks in return...
Alec Burks had a pretty impressive game of the bench. Burks played 30 minutes and finished with 9 points (4-9 FG), 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals, I was definitely impressed with the young combo guard and as much as I like Ridnour, getting a true shooting guard who can do a little bit of everything for you. He may not be the three-point shooter the Wolves crave (just 16-for-48 on the year--including tonight), but he was fun to watch.
Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson both went off for big games tonight. Millsap finished with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks in 36 minutes. His frontcourt mate Big Al added 20 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals and 1 block in 34 minutes. Coming into tonight, I talked about how their play would ultimately decide who won or lost this one. For the second time (in two meetings) this season the Jazz absolutely dominated the paint (30-54) thanks in large part to their big man duo...which by next week may not be together! (With the trade deadline coming up it's rumored that one or potentially both could be moved).
MISC. PLAYER STATS: Both Ricky Rubio & Derrick Williams had career nights! Rubio tied season-highs in points (18) and threes attempted (3). He also set new season/career-highs with 12 made free throws, 13 free throws attempted and 9 total rebounds. He also set new season-highs in defensive rebounds (7), minutes played (40) and blocks (1)--which also ties a career-high. Williams set a new season-high with his 24 points (3 off from tying his 27-point career-high). He tied a season-high with his 17 field goal attempts. His 8 free throws made, 11 attempted, 12 defensive rebounds and 16 total rebounds all set new season & career-highs. His also tied season & tied career highs with his 4 offensive rebounds. His 37 minutes played ties a season-high for the 3rd game this year.
The Wolves had a putrid shooting night, hitting just 29 on 85 attempts to finish 34.1% from the field. They also went 5-for-22 from deep (22.7%) and left 8 points a the free throw line (30-38). In a four-point loss, any freebies you leave at the line, hurt! Other areas that hurt the Wolves: just 12 points from the bench (6 apiece for J.J. & Dante) compared to 43 from Utah. The Wolves were also outscored on the break 8-17. The one surprising stat of the night was the turnovers. The Wolves tied a season-low in turnovers with 10 and allowed just 8 points off them, not bad for a team that's had 20+ turnover nights this season (including 22 for 34 points in Cleveland on Monday).
MISC. TEAM STATS: The Wolves tied a season-high with made free throws (30) and set a new season-high in free throw attempts (38). The Wolves also tied two season-lows: 29 made field goals and 10 team turnovers. The Jazz tied a season-high (for a MIN opponent) with their 40 defensive rebounds and also had the second-best rebound numbers (for a MIN opp) with their 53 total rebounds. They also tied season-lows (for a MIN opp) in threes made (2) and tied the second-worst numbers of the season in threes attempted (by a Wolves opp) with 11.
With this loss the Wolves move to 19-31 on the season heading into the All-Star break. The break could've certainly come sooner for a Wolves team that's won just 4 in the last 21 outings, but they definitely need the time off. They won't play again until next Wednesday (2/20) when they'll take on the 76ers at the Target Center. Ricky Rubio & Alexey Shved will play in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend and we'll have updates on that this weekend! Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!