MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves are finally starting to show a few signs of putting something together as another long, miserable season winds down.
And it looks as if the Utah Jazz are falling apart just in time to let a playoff spot slip away.
Love had 24 points and 12 rebounds and the Timberwolves rolled to a 122-101 victory over the sputtering Jazz on Friday night.
Love extended the longest double-double streak since 1973-74 to 53 straight games and Michael Beasley scored 23 points for the Timberwolves, who snapped an incredible 20-game losing streak to Northwest Division opponents.
“This means something for us, especially at this time of the year,” said Darko Milicic, who had 14 points and six rebounds and shut down Utah’s Al Jefferson. “It’s almost the end of the season and we’re kind of a struggling team that’s not going to make the playoffs. We all know that. We know we’re going to go home April 13.
“It shows something about us that we can come out against teams fighting for playoff spots and give them a good fight.”
Gordon Hayward scored 18 points for the new-look Jazz, who have lost 10 of their last 13 games and are in danger of falling out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
The Jazz are 3-6 since trading starting point guard Deron Williams and are looking a little lost without longtime leader Jerry Sloan, who resigned as coach on Feb. 10.
Their latest loss was their worst yet. The Jazz were down 19 points in the second quarter, got within two points in the third, and then were run out of the building by Beasley and Love in the final 4 1/2 minutes of the period.
The Timberwolves closed the third quarter on a 20-5 run during which Love grabbed a rebound to extend his streak and then hit a 3-pointer on the other end to make it 97-72 going into the fourth.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Jazz with a game at Chicago on Saturday night.
“We go in there and play like that again, we’re going to lose by 60,” said Jazz forward C.J. Miles, who scored 15 points. “I’m just being honest.
“(Chicago) seems like as good of a team in the league right now and they’re playing basketball, they’re playing well. If guys thought this was embarrassing, we go in there like that, it’s going to be bad. I-don’t-even-know-how-to-put-it-in-words bad.”
It was the second straight blowout victory for the Timberwolves (17-50), who beat the Pacers by 26 points on Wednesday and have now won consecutive games for just the fourth time all season. They have two straight wins by at least 20 points for the first time since 2001.
Jefferson, who was traded from Minnesota to Utah in the summer, had nine points on 4 for 13 shooting and nine rebounds against his former team. He entered the night averaging 28 points per game since the All-Star break, which was tied with Amare Stoudemire for tops in the league.
“Minnesota was playing like they were the ones fighting for a playoff spot. We didn’t,” Jefferson said. “I take it on myself.”
The Jazz were missing big man Paul Millsap for the second game in a row because of left knee tendinitis, and it certainly showed early. Millsap averaged 26.5 points and 9.5 rebounds against the Wolves in the first two games of the season, and the Jazz looked soft without their best banger.
The Timberwolves hit their first 11 shots and shot 75 percent in the first quarter, the surest sign yet that these aren’t Sloan’s Jazz anymore.
Beasley scored 10 points and the Wolves put up 39 in the quarter to take an 11-point lead. They led by 19 points early in the second quarter after Nikola Pekovic’s two free throws capped a 17-5 run.
But Utah started chipping away, getting 3-pointers from Gordon Hayward, C.J. Miles and Earl Watson to trim the deficit to nine points at halftime.
Jefferson’s putback early in the second half made it 68-66, but the Jazz scored just six points in the final 9 1/2 minutes of the quarter to turn the fourth into garbage time.
“It’s gone the other way for us numerous times this season,” Love said. “For tonight against a Utah team still figuring themselves out after the trade and with Sloan gone, they’ve still been playing some good basketball, I’m just happy we came out and did our thing tonight.”
NOTES: Wolves SG Wayne Ellington scored 13 points after going 1-for-11 against Indiana on Wednesday night and PG Jonny Flynn added 11. … Jazz rookie Jeremy Evans scored 14 points, including three soaring dunks. … The Timberwolves held a moment of silence before the game to honor those fallen in the earthquake in Japan.
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