After receiving a needed boost at the expense of the Utah Jazz, the Minnesota Timberwolves hope to put an end to their struggles in Salt Lake City in Tuesday night's conclusion of a home-and-home set.
The Timberwolves can win consecutive contests for the first time in more than three weeks if they're able to snap a seven-game road skid against the Jazz, who may have Gordon Hayward back.
Mired in three-game slide that included losses to Sacramento and Toronto by a combined eight points in the previous two, Minnesota (19-21) rolled to a 98-72 win over Utah on Saturday. Nikola Pekovic had 27 points with 14 rebounds in three quarters and Kevin Love added 18, 13 boards and five assists as the Timberwolves scored 28 points off 16 Utah turnovers and held a 50-18 advantage in the paint.
"It's fun when we play like that and everybody communicates," said Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio, who had six points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
Utah (14-28) shot a franchise-worst 28.8 percent (21 of 73) and trailed by as many as 36 points.
"We didn't have the pep to run through our stuff, we didn't attack the basket like we have been," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin told the Timberwolves' official website. "We lost in all areas (Saturday) and we need to make sure this is a short term thing."
The Timberwolves understand it won't matter much unless they're able to build on Saturday's win. Minnesota is 4-6 since it last won consecutive games over Washington and Milwaukee on Dec. 27-28. The Timberwolves are 5-13 in games immediately following victories.
"Like many times before, we're going to forget about (Saturday) because we just have to leave it behind," Pekovic said. "This is such a league where you can't live a month from now and say we beat them. We're just going to try to forget, try to play another good game next time when we play them and, you know, try to beat them again."
Winning is something the Timberwolves have been unable to accomplish while allowing the Jazz to average 111.6 points and shoot 50.1 percent in the last seven meetings in Utah. They last won in Salt Lake City on Dec. 14, 2009.
"Playing in Utah is no easy feat no matter when you play them or what time of the year you play them," said Love, who has averaged 13.9 points on 38.2 percent shooting in nine games at Utah compared to 18.0 and 49.0 percent in eight home contests against the Jazz.
"In a rare occasion where it's kind of a back-to-back, us playing at home and then playing away, I'm sure they'll throw some different stuff at us, they'll watch film and we'll have to go out and have another good showing," Love added.
Despite Saturday's horrendous shooting effort, the Jazz have shot 48.8 percent while winning five of six at home.
Alec Burks was the only Jazz player to score in double figures Saturday with 18 points. He scored a career-high 34 on 13-of-19 shooting in Utah's most recent home contest, a 118-103 win over Denver last Monday.
Hayward has missed the last five games with a hip flexor but seems likely to return after practicing Monday. He leads the Jazz in scoring at 17.1 per game, and averaged 27.0 points on 60.4 percent shooting in the three contests before his injury.
The Associated Press News Service
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