Towns, Wolves hold off short-handed Jazz, 94-80

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns, left, attempts a shot as Utah Jazz’s Jeff Withey defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves won 94-80. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns had 25 points and 10 rebounds and the Minnesota Timberwolves outlasted the short-handed Utah Jazz in a 94-80 victory on Wednesday night.

Ricky Rubio tied a career high with 17 assists and Andrew Wiggins scored 17 points on 6-for-17 shooting for the Timberwolves, who improved to 5-12 at home this season. Gorgui Dieng had 12 points and nine rebounds and the Wolves held off a late charge from the Jazz, who were missing Derrick Favors for a third straight game with back spasms.

Trey Burke scored all 23 of his points in the second half for Utah. The Jazz turned the ball over 19 times and were shooting an ugly 27 percent late in the third quarter. They shot 35 percent for the game and were 10 for 39 (25.6 percent) on 3-pointers.

Both teams were sluggish offensively for much of the game. But Towns, the No. 1 overall pick who has shined in his first season, scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to hold off the Jazz.

Gordon Hayward had 14 points for Utah, but attempted only nine shots. Trevor Booker grabbed 15 rebounds and Jeff Withey had 13 points and nine boards.

The Jazz have been gutted by injuries to much of their foundation, including Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum and Alec Burks, and took another blow recently with Favors’ back spasms. Coach Quin Snyder has used Raul Neto in the starting point guard spot, career backup Withey at center and rookie Trey Lyles in the starting lineup at power forward, and the results have been understandably sloppy.

The inexperienced point guards had difficulty getting Hayward involved in the offense early, with the focal point of the Jazz attack limited to just four shots in the first half. Instead the Jazz fired away from behind the 3-point line, missing 15 of their first 19 shots from deep.

The Wolves weren’t shooting a whole lot better, but were happy to let the Jazz settle for those looks while they built a 15-point lead.

Burke finally got going late in the third, scoring 10 straight for the Jazz, and his layup in transition cut the deficit to six points midway through the fourth.

Towns scored six key points in response and Tayshaun Prince finished them off with two quick buckets in addition to terrific defense on Hayward.


Jazz: They scored just 13 points and shot 20 percent in the first quarter, their second-lowest scoring quarter of the season. … Snyder, a Duke alum, was asked about Wolves rookie PG Tyus Jones, another Blue Devil who won Final Four MVP honors last year: “I’m proud to have gone to his school.”

Timberwolves: Kevin Martin did not play for the fourth straight game. The Timberwolves are trying to trade the shooter, but have yet to find a taker. … Rubio became the first Wolves player with at least 14 assists in consecutive games since Terrell Brandon on Apr. 28-30, 1999.


Jazz: Host Portland on Thursday.

Timberwolves: Visit Detroit on Thursday.

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