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The Sports Xchange, Published January 18 2014

Timberwolves take down Jazz in a rout

The Sports Xchange

MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Timberwolves sure needed a game like Saturday night’s 98-72 victory over Utah – a night of frolic at the Target Center that eased the tension of a three-game losing streak.

The Wolves limited a Jazz team that had won by 21 points in Detroit the night before to 23 first-half points and 28.8 percent shooting from the field all night, a Utah franchise-record low.

They doubled up the Jazz in scoring by late in the second quarter and led by as many as 36 points in the third quarter. It was their league-leading 10th 30-point lead this season even though they’re also 0-11 in games decided by four or fewer points.

Starting point guard Ricky Rubio sat the entire fourth quarter for the third consecutive game, but this time it was for a welcome reason: He was there with his four fellow starters because the outcome already had long been decided.

The starters cheered seldom-played rookies Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng near the game’s end while teammates J.J. Barea and Ronny Turiaf posed for a photo with a courtside female fan during a timeout.

“Every team needs moments like this when you can just sit on the bench and relax,” Wolves center Nikola Pekovic said one night after the Wolves lost 94-89 at Toronto. “I wish we got more games like this, but we’ll take it.”

The Wolves punished the Jazz inside, outscoring them 50-18 in points in the paint thanks to Pekovic’s 27-point, 14-rebound performance and forward Kevin Love’s 18-point, 13-rebound game. They also won the rebounding battle 60-42.

The Wolves (19-21) now have won nine games by 20 or more points, most in the NBA.

The Jazz apparently left their life and their shooting legs in Detroit, where they clobbered the Pistons the night before.

Utah’s 23 first-half points were the fewest ever allowed by a Wolves team in a first half and second fewest in any half in franchise history, second only to Indiana’s 21 points in the second half of a 2006 game.

“I don’t know where the excitement of the game last night went,” Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We played so well (Friday night). It just didn’t transfer over to us tonight.

“We missed shots. We knew from the beginning we didn’t have any pep to us, any energy. We settled for jump shots and they were going to the basket. You can’t have no legs, coming off like you’re soft.”

Utah 14 9 22 27— 72

Minnesota 23 28 28 19— 98

UTAH (72)

Favors 3-10 2-4 8, Burke 2-10 3-3 9, Burks 4-10 9-12 18, R.Jefferson 1-6 0-0 2, Ma.Williams 1-5 2-2 5, Rush 1-6 0-0 3, J.Evans 3-7 3-4 9, Garrett 3-7 0-0 8, I.Clark 1-6 2-2 4, Kanter 2-5 0-0 4, Gobert 0-0 2-2 2, Lucas III 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-73 23-29 72.

MINNESOTA (98)

Love 5-10 6-11 18, Pekovic 12-17 3-3 27, C.Brewer 1-3 0-0 2, Rubio 2-6 1-2 6, Kv.Martin 7-16 5-6 20, Cunningham 0-5 0-0 0, Budinger 1-5 0-0 3, Barea 1-6 1-2 3, Mbah a Moute 1-3 0-0 2, Shved 3-5 3-6 10, Dieng 2-2 0-0 4, Turiaf 0-0 1-4 1, Muhammad 1-5 0-0 2. Totals 36-83 20-34 98.

3-Point Goals: Utah 7-25 (Garrett 2-4, Burke 2-6, Burks 1-2, Ma.Williams 1-3, Rush 1-4, Lucas III 0-1, R.Jefferson 0-2, I.Clark 0-3), Minnesota 6-17 (Love 2-4, Rubio 1-1, Budinger 1-2, Shved 1-2, Kv.Martin 1-6, Barea 0-2). Fouled out: None. Rebounds: Utah 48 (Favors, J.Evans 10), Minnesota 71 (Pekovic 14). Assists: Utah 12 (Burks 4), Minnesota 25 (Rubio 9). Total Fouls: Utah 25 (Burks, Ma.Williams, I.Clark 4), Minnesota 24 (C.Brewer 5). A—17,111.