for this game

Okur spoils McHale's Timberwolves coaching debut

Dec 10, 2008 - 6:53 AM By James Beilby PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Kevin McHale replaced Randy Wittman as coach, but the results did not change for the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 99-96 loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.

Despite leading the game for most of the second half, Minnesota was behind with 1.1 seconds to play after a 12-foot jumper by Mehmet Okur.

A bad pass by Rashad McCants sealed the loss for Minnesota, dropping its record to 4-16.

"It was frustrating and you feel bad for the guys," McHale said. "We did everything but we couldn't finish it off. Again, I thought we have some good stuff to build on from here on out."

Randy Foye made a pair of free throws with 7.8 seconds to go to give the Timberwolves a 96-95 lead. It looked like that might be enough to make McHale a winner in his first game as Minnesota coach this season, but Okur hit his shot off one foot to give the Jazz the lead for good.

The Timberwolves called timeout and inbounded from midcourt but the pass by McCants was stolen, and Deron Williams made two free throws with seven-tenths of a second on the clock to ice the game.

"We'll take the win anyway we can get it," Williams said. "Missed free throws, missed jumpers, whatever. As long as we win, we're happy, but (the missed free throws were) definitely a big part of the game. We hit most of our free throws and they missed a lot of theirs."

Off to an abysmal 4-15 start, the Timberwolves fired Wittman on Monday and replaced him with McHale, who was demoted from his long-time role as the team's vice president of basketball operations.

McHale, 50, had been Minnesota's chief basketball executive for the past 13 years.

Minnesota took advantage of Carlos Boozer being inactive due to a strained left quadriceps, taking a 46-30 scoring edge in the paint.

Al Jefferson asserted himself early in the fourth quarter and helped Minnesota build a 89-80 lead with 6:00 to play only to see Utah work its way back in the game.

"They have some guys that are very difficult for us to guard," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "Jefferson is one of them, as big as he is. And (rookie Kevin) Love. He's a wonderful young player."

While Love had eight points and 15 rebounds, he was 2-of-9 from the free-throw line.

His biggest misses came at the end of the game when two pair of misses and a basket by Millsap and three-point play by Brewer cut the Wolves' edge to two with 1:30 to play. A 3-pointer by Kyle Korver capped an 8-0 run and gave Utah a 95-94 lead with 54 seconds to go.

After the game, McHale tried to encourage his dejected rookie forward.

"I told Kevin that we're going to be in a lot of battles and I'll go to battle with him any day of the week," McHale said.

Minnesota made up an eight-point deficit after the first quarter and took a 47-46 lead into half.

Ronnie Brewer scored 16 of his team's 29 third-quarter points as Utah took a 75-71 lead into the fourth.

"Ronnie played really well in the second half," Sloan said. "He gave us a lift when we were struggling some."

McHale was 19-12 in his first stint as head coach with the Timberwolves when he took over for Flip Saunders in 2006. He was also 2-0 against Utah as head coach. Unlike the last time he stepped in to coach the Wolves, McHale had to relinquish his role as VP of basketball operations.