Jazz move into playoff spot with win over Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS -- Gordon Hayward made sure the Utah Jazz are going home on a good note.Hayward scored 16 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, and Utah beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 93-84 Saturday night.Derrick Favors scored 19 points for Utah, ...

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Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio, right, drives to the basket through Utah Jazz guard Shelvin Mack Saturday at the Target Center in Minneapolis. (Photo by Jesse Johnson / USA TODAY Sports)

MINNEAPOLIS - Gordon Hayward made sure the Utah Jazz are going home on a good note.
Hayward scored 16 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, and Utah beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 93-84 Saturday night.
Derrick Favors scored 19 points for Utah, which went 3-2 on a season-long five-game road trip. The Jazz have won seven of nine. Rodney Hood had 15 points, Trey Lyles had the same amount off the bench, and Rudy Gobert had 11 rebounds.
“It’s been a long road trip for us, but it’s been a good one also. We found the energy in the second half, made a lot of plays, got stops defensively and we won the game,” Favors said.
Looking to make the postseason for the first time in four seasons, Utah is tied with Houston for the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoff race, a half-game ahead of Dallas. Neither the Rockets - who hold the tiebreaker - nor Mavericks played Saturday.
Six of Utah’s final nine games are at home, including games against Golden State, San Antonio, the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas. The Jazz are a combined 2-8 this season against those teams.
“We’ve got to be ready every time out,” said coach Quin Snyder.
Ricky Rubio had 23 points for Minnesota, his fourth 20-plus-point effort of the season. Karl-Anthony Towns had 14 points and 11 rebounds for his 45th double-double.
Minnesota, looking for its first three-game winning streak since Thanksgiving, was coming off a double-overtime win Friday night in Washington. Utah had the night off.
“Last night was a very physical game for us and we had a long flight coming back home,” said interim coach Sam Mitchell. “The thing I like about our guys, the focus was there, the effort was there. The bodies just weren’t there.”
Up 60-59 after three quarters, Hayward scored 11 points in a 14-4 run that gave the Jazz a 74-63 lead, largely with Minnesota’s starters on the bench.
“I got going in transition. To be honest, just attacked the basket a little bit more, got some easier looks. There’s nothing else to it. My teammates found me in good positions,” he said.
Averaging a team-best 19.8 points, Hayward scored on a drive, a dunk and layup that each resulted in 3-point plays and a 3-pointer from the corner in less than a 3-minute span.
Another 3-pointer, with 2:28 to play, gave Utah its biggest lead at 89-73. Hayward was 6 for 9 from the field in the final quarter after going 1 for 6 through three quarters.
“He’s hard to guard once he gets going so we made an emphasis to give him the ball in transition and let him go to work,” Hood said.
The teams were a combined 0 for 11 from the field to start the game before Favors found his touch with eight points and Hood added seven as the Jazz built a 18-10 lead after one quarter. Minnesota was 5 for 24 in the frame, its second-lowest scoring quarter of the season and the lowest by a Jazz opponent.
“What we tried to say is, ‘Let’s guard, let’s guard, let’s guard,’ and eventually you find a way to score,” Snyder said. “Not only did we score, we got a little hot there, Gordon in particular.”
Minnesota got within three early in the second, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Raul Neto and Lyles quickly pushed the Utah lead back to eight.
However, Rubio scored eight points in a 13-2 Minnesota run over the final 4:55 to get the Timberwolves within 35-34 at the half.
“Our defense was pretty solid all night long,” Rubio said. “That’s great because like I’ve been saying all year long, your offense can be there or not. You can have an off night on offense, but your defense always has to be there. It’s an effort. It’s not about the ball going in or not. It’s about being in the right place.”

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