The Jazz, winners of three straight and in position to pick up a game on division-leading San Antonio, got off to one of their best starts of the season Tuesday night in the Target Center, leading 15-2 against the Timberwolves, who'd never beaten them.
Red alert."I hate to start off that way," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "It never fails."
"We got a good lead and didn't sustain the effort," said John Stockton.
"What happens to us on the road," said Blue Edwards, who had a career-high 25 points and was perfect at shooting until his last attempt of the game, "is I don't think we have the killer instinct.
"We don't go into the gym thinking we're going to win. Our mentality," said Edwards, "is we're going to keep it close at the end, and Karl (Malone) or Stock is going to put it up for us. A lot of times, it doesn't happen that way."
This time it happened that the Jazz came back from 11 down to lead by three with a minute left, and then a veteran team failed to make the right things happen on numerous occasions.
Minnesota scored twice more and held on for a 94-93 win in its first nationally televised game of the season.
After Darrell Griffith's jumper from the free-throw line put Utah up 93-90, and Tony Campbell's 17-foot baseliner cut it to 93-92, Griffith shot an air ball, but the ball went out of bounds to the Jazz.
As the Jazz took timeout, Griffith complained to the officials that Tyrone Corbin had hit him on the arm during the shot and that he should have free throws, but the Jazz got the ball out of bounds - with :01 on the shot clock.
The ball was inbounded to Griffith, who turned away from the possibility of an instant shot and was called for a turnover on the :24 violation.
"To be quite frank, I thought there was more time," said Griffith, admitting preoccupation with the uncalled foul. "I didn't notice the clock," he said. "It's my job to know."
"I was yelling we had one second," said Sloan. "Maybe I didn't yell loud enough. But that's what the 24-second clock is up there for - to be seen."
Minnesota used the turnover as a down payment on its first-ever winning basket against Utah. Corbin missed a layup, but Tod Murphy's offensive rebound kept the T-Wolves alive until suddenly searing Sam Mitchell could hit a 17-footer with time running out on Minnesota's own shot clock for a 94-93 lead. Mitchell had a career-high 37 points against Philadelphia Sunday and followed with a team-high 22 Tuesday, shooting 9-for-17.
Still Utah had chances with 11.4 seconds left, but Stockton's drive went out of bounds off Corbin, and the Jazz had to inbound with 2.5 seconds left. Stockton took a Malone pass and shoveled to Thurl Bailey, whose hasty corner jumper faded off the front of the rim as time ran out.
"No option there," said Stockton of his passing choices. "It's not an ideal shot, but it's a shot Thurl can hit. I like my chance with Thurl shooting the last shot."
"We had a good shot to win. It looked like it would go," said Sloan, who'd planned for Stockton to get the final attempt. "It's just one of those shots - maybe it goes, maybe it doesn't. You can second-guess yourself all day on that one. John made a good play to find Thurl open."
Sloan chose to look at the overall picture, not the last minute's mistakes, and his displeasure was with the offensive rebounds Minnesota got - like the one that led to the winning basket. Murphy led all rebounders with 15, four offensively. "They got too many second shots; we kept giving them opportunities," said Sloan, who'd brought out that point at halftime.
"When we got down by 11, I said we had a chance to win if we would execute and block out on the boards."
To Minnesota coach Bill Musselman, it was the effort against Malone and Stockton that turned things around. "We put our two best defensive players on them (Mitchell vs. Stockton and Murphy vs. Malone) to stop the pick-and-roll, which was in our scouting report," he said. "The key was when we started double-teaming Malone."
"They did a nice job not letting us screen and roll," said Edwards, who benefited by getting more shooting opportunities. He was 10-for-10 from the field until his one miss. "We went over their defensive scheme," said Edwards. "When they double-teamed Karl with my man, I was going to be open."
Malone had 17 the first half, with eight points in 3 1/2 minutes near the end of the half. The second half, he had one basket until a three-bucket flurry starting with 6:19 left in the game. Edwards added his last basket and first miss, then fouled out as a Malone score gave Utah a 91-89 lead.
After watching Utah's seven-game win streak against the Timberwolves end, Edwards was of the opinion that it could actually help tonight in the Salt Palace as the Jazz play Pacific Division contender Phoenix in one of those back-to-back NBA scheduling specials. "A loss like this makes you play harder. Usually at home we have the attitude we can beat just about anybody," Edwards said.
JAZZ NOTES - Sloan says Jeff Malone is likely to miss his sixth straight game tonight with a groin pull. He didn't make the Minnesota trip . . . Mark Eaton's only blocked shot of the night was the 2,700th of his career . . . Minnesota outblocked the Jazz 11-4.