Matt Gade, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Three nights later and more than 1,200 miles away, the Timberwolves took the Jazz behind the woodshed again and gave them another severe beating.
It might not have been quite as brutal as last Saturday's lopsided loss at Minneapolis, where Minnesota humbled Utah 98-72 in a game in which the ’Wolves led by as many as 36 points, wound up with their largest margin of victory ever in the all-time series, and the Jazz shot a franchise record-low 28.8 percent from the field.
But Tuesday night's 112-97 thrashing, in some ways, might've almost been worse.
For starters, it came at EnergySolutions Arena in front of 16,387 fans, who can be forgiven if they walked out of this one early after the T-Wolves built a 26-point lead late in the third quarter.
What's more, if the Jazz had any desire to avenge last Saturday's humiliating defeat, they certainly didn't show it, at least not early on.
The flat-footed Utah team fell behind by 18 points in the first quarter and, with the exception of a third-quarter comeback that briefly cut the deficit to 11 — a 3-pointer that would've trimmed the gap to 8 was ruled to have come after the shot clock expired — showed little fight for most of the night.
"I was pleased with the way we came out and controlled the game from the beginning to the end," said Minnesota coach Rick Adelman. "I thought the Jazz would come out with so much energy at the start of the game.
"... It's one of those things where you never know what's going to happen or how much energy they're going to have, but I certainly liked the way we had it."
The disappointing defeat spoiled the return of Utah shooting guard Gordon Hayward, the team's leading scorer who had missed the previous five games with an injured hip. Hayward picked up where he left off, scoring a game-high 27 points with five rebounds, five assists and three steals.
"It was a slow start," Hayward said, "but I made some shots and it felt good out there. It felt good to be back out there."
But he was the only Jazz starter to reach double-digit scoring. And, despite solid efforts off the bench by Alec Burks (18 points), Jeremy Evans (10 points) and Rudy Gobert and John Lucas III, who each scored eight, there weren't many highlights on this night for the Jazz, who slipped to 14-29 on the season, or their fans.
To make matters worse, Utah got manhandled in the paint without starting center Derrick Favors, its third-leading scorer, best rebounder and top interior defender who sat out Tuesday's game with a sore right hip.
"Defensively, he's huge what he does for us at the basket," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said, bemoaning the absence of Favors' presence inside. "He protects the rim for us and typically he doesn't get fouls protecting the rim for us. We missed that in him."
Minnesota, meanwhile, had all five starters in double figures, including two with double-doubles. Kevin Love led the way with 19 points, a game-high 13 boards and eight assists. Corey Brewer also scored 19, while Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin added 18 points apiece and Ricky Rubio contributed 11 points, 13 assists and five steals.
Pesky little guard J.J. Barea was also a thorn in Utah's side with 15 points off the bench for Minnesota (20-21), which pulled within a game of .500 and beat the Jazz in Salt Lake City for the first time since December 2009 — a span of seven straight setbacks.
"There were several times where I felt like we were making a run, and then they hit a big shot," Hayward said. "Barea hit a few dagger 3s and got an and-one layup one time as well. We just didn't get stops tonight."
Corbin admitted that Minnesota's strong start seemed to take the air out of his team's sails early on, and the Jazz never quite got back on course.
"I thought they had a little more pop in the beginning of the game," Corbin said. "We settled for a lot of jump shots early in the game.
"That first quarter hurt us. You give up 34 points and only score 16 in the quarter, it's tough fighting uphill from there.
"They are a team that can score in bunches," Corbin said of the ’Wolves. "I thought we weathered the storm. We got it down to eight and then they go on a 10-0 run in the third quarter. So we just couldn't get over the hump."
Indeed, it was kinda like a little Minneapolis deja vu all over again. And on this night, being back home at ESA didn't seem to matter.
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