Love leads Timberwolves to 112-97 win over Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY — When the Minnesota Timberwolves were mired in a slump, they figured they’d get back to winning if they shed some sweat.
They never thought it would take some blood, too.
Kevin Love grabbed his 4,000th career rebound as part of a 19-point, 13-board effort to lead the Timberwolves over the Utah Jazz 112-97 on Tuesday night.
Along the way to sweeping a home-and-home set against the Jazz, Alexey Shved left with a broken nose and Kevin Martin sliced open his right pinkie.
"It’s crazy. I can’t remember two people bleeding like that in the same game," said Nikola Pekovic, who had 18 points and nine rebounds.
Love leads the league with 35 double-doubles but he thought it was passing and teamwork that sealed a sweep of the home-and-home set with the Jazz.
"I’ve been passing the ball all season and guys were converting," said Love, who had eight assists. "I didn’t get too many looks and didn’t convert many from the 3-point line so I had to figure other ways to be effective."
Ricky Rubio has returned to his spontaneous, free-flowing style and had 11 points and 13 assists for the Wolves, who snapped a seven-game losing streak in Utah.
"Tonight was a pure team effort," Pekovic said. "We are all good friends between us. On the good nights everything is fine, of course."
It was another good night for Minnesota as Corey Brewer scored 19 points and Martin contributed 18. Each time the Jazz threatened to get close in the fourth quarter, J.J. Barea hit big baskets and finished with 15 points to keep the Jazz at bay.
"I think we needed that win (on Saturday) and we had a great team effort defensively. It carried on to tonight," Barea said.
Gordon Hayward returned from a five-game absence to lead the Jazz with 27 points, but he was the only starter in double figures.
The Jazz went 2-3 in Hayward’s absence, including a 98-72 road loss to Minnesota where Utah set a record for worst field goal percentage in franchise history at 28.8 percent.
"It felt good to be back out there," Hayward said. "But we just didn’t get stops tonight. They were too effective offensively."
A team that seemed disjointed and frustrated during a three-game losing streak a week ago, the Timberwolves apparently needed a couple of matchups with the Jazz to break out of the funk.
The Timberwolves ran crisp sets and were eager to make the extra pass to wide-open teammates. Minnesota led 84-62 at the end of three quarters as it assisted on 23 of its first 30 field goals.
Picking up right where they left off on Saturday, the Wolves using a 17-2 run in the first quarter to stake a commanding lead that ballooned to 18 points. Love hit a 3-pointer and Brewer dunked to make the score 30-12 in the first quarter.
"I was pleased with the way we came out and controlled the game from beginning to end," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. "I thought (the Jazz) would come out with so much energy at the start of the game."
Instead the Timberwolves made the Jazz look flat and flustered and soon they were on their way to consecutive wins for the first time since they beat Washington and Milwaukee on Dec. 27-28.
Hayward was having the best three-game set of his career before injuring his left hip and being sidelined five games. But he scored early and often despite the layoff.
His teammates, though, seemed powerless to stop Minnesota’s attack. Alec Burks had 18 points but the Jazz missed starting center Derrick Favors, who was out with a right hip injury.
"Defensively, he protects the rim for us," Utah coach Ty Corbin said. "We missed that."
Of course, Minnesota’s plan to was get the ball to Love and Pekovic.
"We knew we had the advantage against them inside. After last game, we wanted to keep doing that. We had a nice balance of looking at those two guys, plus getting other open looks," Adelman said.
After losing 14 of their first 15 games, the Jazz have been playing about .500 and hadn’t lost two consecutive since losing to San Antonio and Miami on Dec. 14 and 16.
The Timberwolves were again the aggressors against the Jazz and made 22 of 24 free throws.
Hayward’s 3-pointer drew the Jazz 58-47, but Minnesota responded with a 10-0 surge that ended with Martin’s three-point play.
NOTES: The Timberwolves wore their black short-sleeved uniforms. . The Jazz had three points nullified in the third quarter because Trey Burke’s 3-pointer came after the shot clock expired, the ruling came during a time out more than four minutes of elapsed game time after the shot. . The Jazz are 1-18 when Enes Kanter starts. He had four points and six rebounds.