Ricky Rubio Scores 23 Points as Utah Jazz Beat Minnesota Timberwolves, 121-97
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Ricky Rubio wasn't going to miss this game. Not back in Minnesota against his former team, and not with the Utah Jazz having a chance to improve their playoff position in the packed Western Conference.
Rubio, who was questionable before the game with sore left hamstring, scored 23 points and hit a season-high five 3-pointers as the Jazz beat the Timberwolves 121-97 on Sunday night.
"There was no chance I'm not playing tonight," Rubio said, telling reporters his desire was because of the playoff race. "I know it's a huge game. Always being smart knowing that the team needs me. This game was huge."
Rubio, who was traded from the Wolves in the offseason in part because of his poor shooting, buried his former team further with his run of 3s. He was 4 of 4 from long range in the second quarter and had 16 points in the first half.
Rookie Donovan Mitchell added 21 points to help the Jazz climb a half-game ahead of Minnesota for sixth in the Western Conference. The loss kept the Timberwolves one game ahead of New Orleans, which lost at home to Oklahoma City.
Utah shot a season-high 60.5 percent from the field and got 50 points from its reserves to split the season series with Minnesota by winning the last two games. The Jazz have won 25 of its past 30 games.
"We've worked hard over the course of the season, like all teams, to be in a position to have opportunities to play games like tonight," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. "Obviously, we played well tonight. Guys were focused on that. We just focused on playing well and playing together and that's what we did."
Andrew Wiggins scored 23 points for the Wolves, who had won two straight but fell to 19-5 at home against Western Conference opponents this season. Karl-Anthony Towns had 20 points.
"We gave them everything," Towns said. "They shot 60 percent, that's a tell-tale sign that you're giving them everything. We didn't do a good job tonight of doing the little things."
Wiggins was aggressive early in a pivotal game for both teams. He scored 11 of Minnesota's first 15 points and the Wolves held a four-point lead.
Utah recovered and methodically pulled away. The Jazz took their first lead at 22-20 and didn't trail again. Jerebko hit a fall-away shot against Towns to cap a 25-10 run for a 41-30 lead.
Utah scored on four of its first five possessions of the second half to pull away and led by as many as 29 points.
"It's hard to win if you don't play defense," Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. "It's about competition, competing on every play. We always talk about the two things are the execution and the intensity. So, what we did tonight wasn't good enough, not even close."
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