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Hayward, Kanter lift Jazz over Timberwolves to snap skid

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Associated Press
1/2/2013 11:52:03 PM
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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Jazz quickly put 2012 in the rearview mirror.

After closing out the year with tough back-to-back losses to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Jazz opened 2013 with an overpowering 106-84 victory over an uninspired Minnesota Timberwolves team on Wednesday.

The Jazz did it despite knowing starting point guard Mo Williams will be out at least another six weeks after opting for surgery on his injured right thumb.

"Our confidence never wavered," said Earl Watson, who stepped up with nine assists in sharing point guard duties Wednesday with Jamaal Tinsley.

"Everybody is a little heartbroken about Mo," added power forward Derrick Favours. "But we know he's going to be all right. We just came out there and played like he was with us."

It helped that Tinsley shot 6 of 8 and finished with 12 points.

It also helped that Paul Millsap, who had seen his playing time diminish with the emergence of Favours, started 7 of 7 and finished with 14 points as his coach experimented with rotations.

And it helped that Andrei Kirilenko, facing his former team for the first time since signing with Minnesota, couldn't keep his own hot streak going.

Kirilenko received a warm round of applause from fans during introductions and started 3 of 3 but finished with just 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting.

"It was nothing personal," Watson said of giving Kirilenko a rude homecoming. "We needed a win and Andrei happened to be on the other team."

Gordon Hayward scored 17 points off the bench to lead the Jazz and Enes Kanter added 15, with eighth rebounds as Utah snapped a three-game losing streak.

The only bad news, besides the lengthy loss of Williams, is that Kanter sprained his right ankle in the closing moments of the blowout win and will be a game-time decision Friday at Phoenix.

Otherwise, there wasn't much Minnesota players could say after shooting a season-low 35.5 per cent from the field, including a season-low 2 of 17 from 3-point range.

"We need to take a rest right now and kind of get back on track," said Kirilenko, who spent 10 seasons in a Jazz uniform before leaving as a free agent two years ago.

"It's just one of those games where . you can't make a shot five or six possessions in a row, you couldn't put it in on a layup, you couldn't get to the line. It's all together kind of like an avalanche."

Minnesota made only 12 of 40 shots in the second half. Overall, they were outscored 56-36 in the paint and 25-8 on the break.

Utah (16-17) trailed by one after the first quarter but opened the second on a 15-4 run and the third on an 11-0 run.

The Jazz led by as many as 20 in the third quarter, and unlike last week when they blew a 19-point lead against the Los Angeles Clippers, they kept pouring it on.

Six Jazz players scored in double figures, the kind of effort they will need if they hope to climb back into the playoff picture.

"I thought defensively we did a pretty good job, especially on some of their big guys," Hayward said. "That also spawned us some easy fast-break points, which we haven't really been getting. We talked about that before the game. That was crucial for us."

Alexey Shved and Kevin Love led Minnesota (14-14) with 13 apiece and Love added 10 rebounds but neither shot well. Love was 4-of-14 shooting and Shved shot 3 of 10.

"This was a great win tonight," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "It showed us what we can do if we concentrate on what we have to do. And this is who we are going to have and we can't feel sorry for ourselves. This is who we have and we have to figure out how we can be as good as we can with this group right now."

The Jazz were reeling before the game after learning Mo Williams would be out for so long.

But Corbin expressed confidence in veteran backups Tinsley and Watson.

Tinsley showed his leadership, making 5 of 6 shots in the first half, including one where he bounced the inbounds pass off the backside of Nikola Pekovic for an easy layup.

Watson, who is still trying to find his rhythm after a lengthy rehab following knee surgery last season, did his best to push the pace and make the key pass.

The Jazz opened the second quarter on a 15-4 run, with reserves Kanter and Watson providing the biggest punch.

Kanter hit an outside jumper, jammed after a long pass from Watson and went coast-to-coast on a steal for another dunk.

The heady Watson fed players for alley-oops and pushed the ball up the court with long passes, including one that resulted in a Hayward dunk and 40-30 Jazz lead.

In the third quarter, Millsap continued his hot hand, including a fast-break layup after a steal by Jefferson that put Utah up 70-50. Utah closed out the quarter with another 3 by Hayward and a soaring dunk by Kanter.

The Timberwolves, who had wins over Oklahoma City and Phoenix in the last two weeks, had no energy to make a run -- even in a building that Kirilenko knew so well.

He was drafted in 1999 by the Jazz (24th overall pick), still owns a home in Salt Lake City and spoke fondly of his former teammates and the Jazz fans.

"There's a lot of memories," Kirilenko said. "Every fan for 10 years has some good moments and I have a lot of good moments here."

Wednesday night, despite the warm reception, was one to forget.

NOTES: Utah's roster is full at 15 because guard Raja Bell counts even though he is not with the team. The Jazz failed to trade him following a nasty dispute with Corbin last season. ... Love received a technical during Utah's big third-quarter run. Jazz PF Favours had perhaps his best move of the season when he spun around Greg Steimsma during Utah's big second-quarter run. . Former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was in the stands again to see Kirilenko's return. . Pekovic matched his career-best with four blocks.

Gordon Hayward (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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