MINNEAPOLIS — The Jazz closed their season of frustration and growing pains on a high note, defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves 136-130 in double overtime Wednesday at the Target Center.
Trey Burke scored a career-high 32 points and Gordon Hayward added 23 as Utah (25-57) ended a five-game losing streak with the win over Minnesota (40-42).
“To finish on a win, it was good for us as a team, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the record,” Hayward said. “It’s just better to go out with a win.”
The victory ended Utah’s worst season in more than 30 years. The team finished the year in last place in the Western Conference and lost 21 of its final 25.
“Losing has definitely been difficult,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “The development of these young guys, the roles they’ve been having to play this year, they have a better understanding of what those roles are, how they have to get themselves ready every night. It’s been fun watching them grow, but losing is not fun to go through.”
Burke, the team’s top rookie, has been one of those players to develop under Corbin, averaging 12.8 points per game. He filled the stat sheet Wednesday, finishing with seven rebounds and nine assists in addition to the career-high scoring total. He also hit four free throws in the final 20 seconds of the second overtime.
“I just tried to come out and make plays for others,” he said. “Once they started backing off of me, that’s when I started taking that jump shot, started being more aggressive.”
Overall, Burke appeared pleased with his rookie season and noted that the team has a lot of potential.
“I think we got a lot of really good young talent,” he said. “The future is bright.”
Burke said he will work on getting stronger and improving his jump shot this offseason, after shooting 38 percent from the field.
He is part of one of the youngest teams in the league. The Jazz's starting lineup Wednesday featured just one player — Jeremy Evans — older than 24 years old. The 26-year-old Evans started in place of Enes Kanter, who was inactive with tendinitis in his right quadriceps.
That youthful lineup included third-year player Alec Burks and fourth-year player Derrick Favors, both of whom averaged career highs in points this season. It also included Utah’s leading scorer, Hayward.
On Wednesday, Hayward finished one assist away from his first career triple-double, capping arguably the strongest season of his four-year NBA career. He notched career highs in points, rebounds and assists this season, and on Wednesday, he became the first Jazz player since Pete Maravich to average more than 16 points, five rebounds and five assists per game.
Hayward said he expected to play a bigger role this season after the Jazz lost their two leading scorers from 2012-13 in Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.
“I was ready to embrace it,” he said. “I knew it was going to be a challenge, but it was something I was looking toward to.”
Hayward also said he’s not worried about being a restricted free agent this summer. “I can cross the bridge later,” he said Wednesday morning, “but right now, I’m still obviously a Jazz player, and so I’m doing whatever I can to help us win.”
Corbin, whose contract with the Jazz is also set to expire, avoided a question about his future with the team.
“It’ll happen when it happens,” he said. “I’ve played for 16 years of speculations and all that. I know where this team is — we talked about coming into the year. We’ll see. We’ll see if things can be worked out.”
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