Utah Jazz: Strong second half propels Jazz to second straight double-digit win

By Randy Hollis

Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Jan. 30 2016 8:20 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — This could be a turning point, perhaps, for the Utah Jazz.

If they are going to indeed make good on all the terrific promise this team once showed before being bitten badly this season by the injury bug, then their current six-game homestand would be an ideal time to do it.

And Friday night, in the third game of that pivotal six-game stretch, they notched their second straight double-digit victory by turning back a talented but under-achieving Minnesota Timberwolves team, 103-90, at Vivint Arena.

Second-year shooting guard Rodney Hood had a team-high 24 points and four assists for Utah, which outscored Minnesota 26-14 in a pivotal third period, while a reconditioned Derrick Favors — who missed 19 games in December and January with a balky back problem — returned to the starting lineup and had 20 points with nine rebounds.

"We picked it up in the second half and we kept them out of transition," Hood said after the Jazz pulled away from a narrow 56-55 halftime edge. "We did not do as good of a job on the boards, but we got back in transition and made them play in the half court."

Utah's defense made its presence felt after halftime. The Jazz, who gave up 55 first-half points, allowed only 14 in the third quarter and just 35 total in the second half, paving the way for the victory.

"We made them play in the half court. Regardless of what team in the NBA that we play, if we play in the half court consistently the whole game, we are tough to score against. And I think that was the key."

Center Rudy Gobert, another Utah starter who missed a major chunk of the season with a knee injury, added 14 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks to help the Jazz improve to 21-25.

"We came back in the locker room at halftime and we said that we're making too many mistakes," said Gobert, "especially giving them offensive rebounds and fast-break points. We came back and played tougher.

"Favors is getting used to playing and he did a good job tonight. He is great; everybody is coming back, you know. A.B. (Alec Burks) is going to come back pretty soon, not very soon but pretty soon, and it is great."

Leading scoring Gordon Hayward managed 12 points and five rebounds on a relatively quiet night. Trey Burke banged in four 3-pointers for 12 points off the bench, Trevor Booker contributed 11 points, eight rebounds and two blocks and Raul Neto netted nine points to go along with six assists.

Utah coach Quin Snyder said Favors' strong return to the lineup was a huge boost to his team's hopes.

"It's just big having that other guy on the boards, and Book (Booker) did as well," he said. "When you have somebody that's guarding a post player, and a good post player like they have, that weak-side rebounding is essential. And that's some of what we've been missing from that position. And he was able to do that.

"As the game went on, I thought Rudy did a nice job, too, handling the ball and finishing some things and making some good passes. I was happy with how those guys interacted, and obviously Book gave us a huge lift off the bench."

Snyder certainly appreciates the way Hood has been stepping up and making an increasingly bigger presence and positive impact as the season goes on.

"I've been pushing our team pretty hard, mentally as much as physically," he said. "And I think we showed ... I was a little worried about our fatigue at the beginning of the game. I still feel like we've got to keep grinding because we've got guys back and we're trying to figure out who we are.

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