Millsap has big game as Jazz topple TimberwolvesJan 21, 2009 - 7:05 AM Tony Pizza PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- The Utah Jazz had no trouble jumping all over the Minnesota Timberwolves early, it was the putting them away part that gave them trouble.
Paul Millsap returned to his double-double ways scoring 28 points and pulling down 15 rebounds as the Jazz won their sixth straight at home by the score of 112-107 on Tuesday night.
Minnesota missed its first six shots, allowing Utah to jump out to an early 12-0 lead, but the Timberwolves refused to let things get ugly.
Kevin McHale made his coaching debut against the Jazz on December 9, and Utah got the same intense effort from Minnesota as the first time around.
In took back-to-back 3-pointers by Mehmet Okur, and a 6-for-6 effort from the free-throw line down the stretch for Utah to outlast the feisty Timberwolves.
Millsap threw down a dunk with 5:50 remaining in the game to put Utah up 97-89, but a breakaway layup by Randy Foye, followed by a 3-pointer, as part of his 19 point night, capped a 7-0 Minnesota run that brought them within one with just over four minutes to play.
"I wanted to step up tonight," Millsap said. "I had a tough game last game and I'm not used to that. I felt like I needed to crash the boards hard tonight."
Minnesota had three possessions to take the lead, but couldn't take advantage and Mehmet Okur made them pay with back-to-back 3-pointers, the second with 2:40 remaining that built the lead back up to seven.
"I give our guys a lot of credit for stepping up and continue to play and win the ballgame," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
Sebastian Telfair missed two free throws in between Okur's darts from beyond the arc to squander Minnesota's chance to keep the game closer.
Telfair finished with 17 points, and Ryan Gomes added 19 as Minnesota got a complete team effort to hang tough in one of the tougher places to play in the NBA.
It was Minnesota's efforts on the boards and second chance points, however, that kept things close early.
Al Jefferson scored 25 points and between him, Kevin Love and Mike Miller, the Timberwolves managed to draw even with Utah on the boards, 40-40.
"This time last year, we got blown out of this building both times we played them," Jefferson said. "So we feel pretty good about coming in playing this team on their home floor. We put ourselves in a great position to win, but we just didn't come up with it."
Deron Williams finished with 17 points and 11 assists, Okur added 22 on 9-for-15 shooting, but Utah's lead never grew bigger than 14 despite the hot start.
Telfair hit a long jump shot with with 1:28 remaining in the third put the score at 81-78. Brian Cardinal's layup less than a minute later allowed Minnesota to enter the fourth quarter down just three, 83-80 and Utah wouldn't see its lead ever reach double-digits again.
After cutting Utah's lead to one with 4:20 remaining, the Timberwolves went on a 3:22 dry run, allowing Utah to close out the hard fought win.
"They got within one point of us, I believe we could have folded our tents and said, 'OK this is it,'" Sloan said. "But we made some stops on them, about three or four stops I believe, and kept them from getting what they wanted."
Despite keeping the game close, Minnesota never lead, and Williams and Kyle Korver went perfect from the line down the stretch, to prevent Minnesota from stealing a win despite a few desperation 3-point baskets from Gomes and Foye late.
"We kind of had them for a while," McHale said. "we stopped them a couple of possessions, we just couldn't score and we really didn't get good looks after we got to a one-point game."
Utah finished 27-for-29 (93 percent) from the free-throw line, compared to just a 68 percent (11-for-16) effort from the Timberwolves.
Utah's free throw advantage made up for allowing Minnesota to shoot 51 percent (44-for-86) from the field, compared to Utah's 46 percent (40-for-88).
With the win, Utah now enters arguably its hardest scheduling of the season. Eleven of the Jazz's next 15 games are against teams that are sitting in playoff positions, including their next six. The rough 30- day stretch will end with a four-game road That challenge starts against Houston tomorrow on the backend of their 10th back-to-back set of the season.
"It's a tough schedule, but it is what it is," Okur said. "Almost every game is a must-win the rest of the year."
The Jazz, who have already had 13 different starting lineups due to injury, lost Andrei Kirilenko at the 6:47 mark in the second quarter to an inflamed right ankle that would keep him out of the remainder of the game.
UTAH 112 FINAL
Jan 20 11:27 PM
UTAH 83 END, 3RD QTR
Jan 20 10:46 PM
UTAH 58 HALFTIME
Jan 20 10:03 PM
UTAH 32 END, 1ST QTR
Jan 20 9:35 PM
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