Utah Jazz: C.J. Miles posts 40 points in win over Timberwolves
SALT LAKE CITY — Wednesday was a night of paradox and contrast for the Utah Jazz.
Moments after one player flipped the switch on his offensive game to electrify and energize his team and the EnergySolutions Arena crowd during a 119-104 Jazz win, the franchise announced that it had pulled the plug on another beloved player for the regular season.
While elated to have received a 40-point outing by C.J. Miles against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the club is bummed to be without injury-plagued big man Mehmet Okur the rest of the way.
Five days after getting blown out by one of the worst teams in the NBA — losing by 21 Friday in Minnesota in an admittedly "embarrassing" effort — the Jazz returned the favor by doing the blowing out in this one that saw them lead by as many as 26.
And an hour or so after getting his first technical foul as a head coach, Tyrone Corbin also got a chance to celebrate the first back-to-back victories in his 15-game coaching career.
The Jazz coach was much happier about one of those incidents than the other, as you might imagine.
"It really was great," he said of Utah's win and overall play. "Both on the offensive and defensive end of the floor. The guys did a great job right from the beginning."
That was a stark contrast to what they did last Friday when they allowed the T-Wolves to score 39 points in the opening quarter of Minnesota's could-have-been-bigger 122-101 victory.
Both teams came out firing in the first quarter this time, with Utah taking a slight 35-32 lead into the second thanks to Miles' 18-point explosion in his second game as a starter in place for new backup Raja Bell.
But Utah kept firing on all cylinders in the second quarter, outscoring the T-Wolves 36-18 to head to the locker room with their most prolific first half of the season (71 points).
"We had to redeem ourselves," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "That was just embarrassing the way we played in Minnesota. So we had to come out and start the game playing good defense and have a good offense."
Check, and check.
Utah let its guard down in the third quarter, allowing Minnesota to creep within 10 points. But, unlike Monday when they were forced to win in overtime after coughing up a 21-point lead to Philadelphia, the smooth-operating Jazz finished strong to clinch this needed win in regulation.
Suddenly, the Jazz (36-33) are gaining some traction and have moved within one-and-a-half games of idle Memphis (37-31) for the last playoff spot.
"We're really moving in the right direction," Jazz small forward Andrei Kirilenko said. "We have a lot of changes and right now we're getting used to each other and we're playing better and better each game."
Offensively, Corbin was pleased with how well they executed their half-court sets and controlled the game's tempo against a T-Wolves team that seems to give them fits despite only having 17 wins on the season.
And, of course, Corbin was really thrilled with Miles' breakout game. This was the second outing in a row in which the soon-to-be 24-year-old (Friday's his birthday) started in place of Bell, the season-long starting shooting guard.
"He did a tremendous job executing the offense," Corbin said of Miles. "He didn't rush any shots. He really waited for them to come within the system, and he looked for good shots. He put the ball on the floor some and got to the basket early."
Miles finished hitting a blistering 14-of-18 field goals, including a clutch 6-for-7 performance from beyond the 3-point line.
"I just tried to come out here aggressively," Miles said, "and I kinda got going."
Jefferson did too against his former team, scoring 26 points with 11 rebounds. He also had four blocked shots.
Their big nights were complemented nicely by fellow starters Kirilenko (15 points, six rebounds, six assists), Paul Millsap's fill-in Derrick Favors (13 points, five boards, three blocks) and Devin Harris (12 points, four assists).
Bell added six points off the bench in 24 minutes.
And as a team, the Jazz shot 54.8 percent compared to just 42 percent for the Timberwolves.
"We moved the ball from side to side," Harris said. "Guys were getting some open shots. I saw a lot of what I've seen in the past from this Jazz offense, you know, what we're capable of doing."
Kevin Love, whose record 53-game double-double streak was snapped earlier this week, led Minnesota (17-52) with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
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