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Jefferson helps Timberwolves earn first division win

Feb 27, 2008 - 5:01 AM By Jim Beilby PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Al Jefferson scored 22 points and Rashad McCants, Ryan Gomes and Randy Foye all added 20 as the Minnesota Timberwolves recorded their first win over a Northwest Division foe with Tuesday's 111-100 victory over the Utah Jazz.

Despite All-Star Carlos Boozer pouring in 34 points, the Jazz could not overcome Minnesota's defensive pressure which forced them into a season-high 24 turnovers.

"You got to give Minnesota credit," Jazz forward Matt Harpring said. "They got after it and probably created a lot of our turnovers. We just weren't careful with the ball."

Losers of seven of their last eight games, the Timberwolves registered 16 steals - one shy of a franchise record.

"It didn't matter what was going on. In the half court, they got a piece of it," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "No matter where we went they got a piece of the basketball. And of course, they beat us on the offensive boards, 15-9. They were going after the ball; they wanted the game more than we did."

Fourteen first-half turnovers neutralized Utah's efforts through the first two quarters as Minnesota posted a 52-47 advantage at intermission.

"We gave them too much confidence," Boozer said. "They took advantage and ran away with it."

Gomes scored nine third-quarter points to help the Timberwolves build a 67-61 with 4:07 to play. But Boozer netted 12 in the period as Utah tied it up at 72-72 heading into the final quarter.

"Good teams, especially teams atop the Western Conference, are going to take advantage of your late lapses," Gomes said. "We wanted to be sure and play even-keeled, play our game, and not panic when they make their runs."

With Jefferson on the bench in the fourth, Minnesota went on a 9-0 run that featured a 3-pointer by Foye and layups by Gomes, McCants and Craig Smith to forge an 86-76 edge with 7:30 remaining.

Gomes drilled a 3-pointer with 4:31 left and hit a pair of free throws on the next possession to give Minnesota a 97-82 lead.

"Last game, against Dallas, that loss was on us," Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. "We didn't handle our emotions very well. But they bounced back. I told the guys that I was really proud of them to come into this game after a game like that."

Deron Williams collected 18 points and nine assists and Mehmet Okur added 11 and 11 rebounds for Utah, which has dropped three of its last five games away from home.

"We were playing really well, but now we're not," Harpring said. "We have to figure it out, especially with it being such a tight playoff race."

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