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Pekovic, Timberwolves throttle Utah Jazz, ending skid

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The Canadian Press
1/18/2014 10:33:45 PM
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The struggling Minnesota Timberwolves finally got to blow off some steam.

Nikola Pekovic had 27 points and 14 rebounds in three quarters and the Timberwolves blasted the Utah Jazz, 98-72 on Saturday night.

Kevin Love had 18 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, and Kevin Martin scored 20 points to help the Wolves snap a three-game losing streak that included losses to Sacramento and Toronto. The Wolves scored 28 points off 16 Utah turnovers and outscored the Jazz 50-18 in the paint for a much-needed blowout.

Alec Burks scored 18 points for the Jazz, who trailed by as many as 36 points and shot 28.8 per cent, the worst shooting night in franchise history. Derrick Favours had eight points and 10 boards, but was just 3 for 10 from the field.

The Timberwolves hit a season-low three games under .500 with a dispiriting loss in Toronto on Friday night, and a season that started with playoff aspirations was threatening to be done in by a lack of team chemistry and an inability to win close games. They are 0-11 this season in games decided by four points or less, but also lead the league in games in which they've led by at least 30 points (10).

The Jazz were playing again without leading scorer Gordon Hayward, who was out with a strained left hip flexor. And they've never missed him more.

The Jazz missed 20 of their first 26 shots against the team with the worst field goal percentage defence in the league. With just under nine minutes to play in the first half, Favours went up for a dunk but didn't make it high enough and was rejected by the rim. He grabbed the ball, went straight up again, and missed another dunk off the back iron.

Incredibly, it only got worse from there. The Jazz made two field goals in the entirety of their nine-point second quarter and went into halftime trailing by 28 points. They went 8 for 39 in the first two quarters, just 20.5 per cent, and managed a season-low 23 points, the second-lowest scoring half for a Wolves opponent in franchise history.

How bad was it? Pekovic and Martin combined for 39 points midway through the third quarter. The Jazz had 37.

The Timberwolves weren't exactly on fire, either. They shot 44 per cent in the first half and missed eight of 19 free throws. But if any team needed a gimme like this one, it was the Wolves. They had lost four of their previous five games to fall to 11th in the Western Conference and were fighting discord in the locker room and plummeting confidence on the court. That all changed on Saturday night, with Love and Pekovic rough-housing on the sideline, Martin playing with an aggression that hasn't been seen for a few weeks and Ricky Rubio playing with a hop in his step and a smile on his face for the first time in a month.

Rubio had six points, nine assists and eight rebounds in 26 minutes.

Promising rookie Trey Burke had just nine points on 2-for-10 shooting for Utah.

NOTES: The Jazz's previous franchise low for field goal percentage was 29.3 per cent against New York on Nov. 14, 2005. ... Love hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter that moved him past Wally Szczerbiak for second on the franchise's career list. ... The teams meet again in Utah on Tuesday.

Nikola Pekovic Timberwolves (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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