Wolves comfortably dispatched Jazz 112-97 Tuesday night at EnergySolutions Arena, completing a 210-169 aggregate win against a suddenly out-of-form Utah side.
After Saturday’s away 98-72 defeat to the Minnesota side, Jazz hoped for a measure of revenge in the return leg of the regular season tie. Instead, central defender Derrick Favors’ unfortunate injury proved costly for a makeshift Utah defence, allowing Rick Adelman’s boys to run rampant.
Wolves started where they left off in the first leg, getting off to a fine 30-12 start on winger Corey Brewer’s close-range counterattacking finish. It was not the start Jazz wanted. While Utah recovered somewhat with a better performance in the second quarter, Kevin Love’s emphatic strike over Richard Jefferson punctured the youthful Jazz’s combative spirit.
The second half proved no better for Ty Corbin and Utah. The home side emerged to the pitch rejuvenated with an impressive attacking display, closing Wolves’ lead to just 8. However, the visitors responded with urgency, going on a run to stretch the Jazz deficit to 18. To add insult to injury, playmaker Trey Burke’s long-distance shot was disallowed during a break in play, extending the lead to 21. From there, Spaniard Ricky Rubio and company easily saw the match out.
The win eases some pressure on Wolves, who have aspirations of achieving a top-8 finish.
One measure of consolation for the home side was the fine performance of youngster substitute Rudy Gobert, who scaled new heights after a loan to Bakersfield with a new personal best 3 blocked shots. Gordon Hayward was also quality, with 27 points in his return from a fortnight’s injury.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Kevin Love’s electrifying long-range vision was on display once more tonight, giving his grateful teammates easy looks with nothing but court between them and the goal. Love’s keen play showed throughout, as the American accumulated 19 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists against poor opposition.
MINNESOTA: Brewer 8, Love 8, Pekovic 7, Martin 6, Rubio 7… Subs: Barea 7, Turiaf 5, Budinger 4, Cunningham 5, Shved N/A, Mbah a Moute N/A, Muhammad N/A, Dieng N/A.
UTAH: Jefferson 5, Williams 5, Kanter 3, Hayward 7, Burke 5… Subs: Burks 6, Evans 5, Gobert 6, Lucas 6, Rush N/A, Garrett N/A, Clark N/A.