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Strong fourth quarter helps Jazz close out win at Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS — Things weren't going the Utah Jazz's way early in the fourth quarter.

Their bench, which had played well earlier in the game, struggled and bobbled away an 11-point lead. Meanwhile, the T-Wolves were showing that they can be as pesky as they are talented nowadays.

That's when the Jazz did what good teams are supposed to do when they're in these types of situations against teams they should and need to beat in order to push toward the playoffs.

After losing their lead with eight minutes remaining, the Jazz closed out strong against a less-experienced team en route to a 112-103 victory over Minnesota at the Target Center.

"Just do what we do, you know," Jazz center Rudy Gobert said of the team's strong fourth quarter. "We played defense and then keep scoring. That's good basketball."

It was the third win in a row for Utah, which improved to 10-8 after recently losing four straight.

That losing streak, however, was before George Hill returned.

Simply put, Hill is a game-changer. That's especially true when he pairs up with Gordon Hayward.

Those two combined for 22 of the Jazz's 38 fourth-quarter points and finished with 24 points apiece in this matchup of these Northwest Division powers-in-the-making squads.

"I think it's maturity," Snyder said of the way the Jazz didn't fold in the fourth quarter after losing their lead. "And there's some guys out there that didn't get rattled."

Hill was so unrattled that he continued to play after getting popped in the mouth on a layup, an injury that required three stitches in his mouth after the game. The point guard, who's led the Jazz to a 7-3 record in games he's played, finished with eight rebounds, four assists and 7-of-15 shooting after a rough start.

"George Hill tonight didn't play well in the first half," Snyder said, "and really dug his way out of it and ended up playing a very, very good game."

Snyder credited veteran forward Boris Diaw, who started for the injured Derrick Favors, for giving the Jazz "an anchor."

The Jazz also got terrific outings from Hayward (plus-27 with zero turnovers in 34 minutes) and Gobert (16 points, 17 rebounds, three blocked shots).

The bench players' stats weren't as impressive — aside from a nice 13-point effort from Trey Lyles — but Snyder credited reserves for helping to turn the game around in the second quarter.

Utah held Minnesota to 18 points in the second quarter to take a 50-45 lead into the locker room.

"Really to me, we won the game in the second quarter. We were really passive in the first quarter. We didn’t have a single deflection," Snyder said. "Our bench came in — Joe Ingles, Shelvin Mack, Jeff Withey — they gave us good minutes. Trey Lyles, Joe Johnson, that group came in and really turned it up."

The T-Wolves pushed back at the Jazz subs in the second half — and all but Ingles had a negative plus/minus rating for the night — but Snyder dismissed that because of the help the second unit gave in that important second quarter.

"It’s a good reason to ignore plus/minus," Snyder said.

There's no ignoring, however, how well Utah played when its main guys were on the court down the stretch. It helped the Jazz improve to 4-0 when Hayward and Hill play together. Utah's effectiveness in crunch time made it evident which of these young teams is further along in its rebuilding process.

Dunk champ extraordinaire Zach Lavine finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the T-Wolves, who fell to 5-12. Karl-Anthony Towns added 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Andrew Wiggins chipped in 13 points before fouling out.

"It's a very talented team. They've been getting better and better," Snyder said of the T-Wolves, who scored 34 in the fourth quarter. "They're very good scorers, very athletic, too, so we have to respect them, and it's not very easy to guard them. We did a very good job defensively."

JAZZ NOTES: Utah flew back from Minnesota late Monday night to be home in time for some rest ahead of Tuesday night's game against Houston. … Point guard Dante Exum registered the first DNP-CD (Did Not Play-Coach's Decision) of his three-year career. … Utah outscored Minnesota 60-44 in the paint and outshot the T-Wolves 50.6 percent to 44.4 percent. … After shootaround, Gordon Hayward smiled when asked who he was picking to win Monday's Butler-Utah game: "You know who I've got." His Bulldogs took care of business in Salt Lake City while he was away, beating the Utes 68-59 at the Huntsman Center.

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