Jazz 103, T-wolves 95

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MINNEAPOLIS – The Utah Jazz aren’t out of the playoff hunt just yet.

Carlos Boozer had 30 points and nine rebounds and Mehmet Okur had 19 points and 13 boards to lead the Jazz to a 103-95 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.

Deron Williams added 13 points and five assists for the Jazz, who entered the night in 10th place in the West, four games behind eighth-place Sacramento.

Thanks to Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey’s pledge to play his younger players more down the stretch of another lost season, the Jazz had it relatively easy in the fourth quarter.

Leading by three points to start the period, the Jazz slowly increased their lead to nine as Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett watched from the bench.

Devin Brown’s free throw gave Utah a 92-83 lead with 6:07 to play, prompting boos from the hometown crowd.

With fans chanting, “We Want KG!” as Utah built its lead in the fourth, Garnett sat on the bench quietly, staring blankly ahead.

Garnett, who finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds in 24 minutes, sat the entire second quarter, an extreme rarity in Minnesota over the past 11 seasons, then sat the entire fourth as well while Marko Jaric, Trenton Hassell, Justin Reed, Eddie Griffin and Rashad McCants tried to cut into Utah’s lead.

They couldn’t hack it against a team still fighting for the playoffs.

Boozer, who scored 30 points for the third time since returning to the starting lineup 12 games ago, once again led the way down the stretch.

He scored five straight points for the Jazz, the last a pretty touch shot from the baseline for a 97-91 lead with 3:19 to play.

Boozer snuck behind the Timberwolves and caught a full-court pass for a dunk, giving the Jazz an insurmountable 102-95 lead.

Again, the crowd started chanting, “KG! KG!” But Casey stuck to his guns, and may have helped the team’s future in more ways than one.

When the team traded Sam Cassell and a No. 1 draft pick to the Los Angeles Clippers for Marko Jaric in the offseason, that draft pick was lottery protected. If the Timberwolves earn a lottery pick that is 10th or better, they keep the selection. If it is 11th or worse, the Clippers get it.

Reed scored a career-high 18 points, McCants had 17 points and Banks had 14 points and six assists for the Wolves, who lost for the third time in a row, including two ugly road losses to lowly Charlotte and Atlanta.

Boozer was inactive for the first 49 games of this season with a strained left hamstring, but has been proving his worth since returning. He also had 27 points and 17 rebounds in a close loss to San Antonio on Tuesday night.

Notes: Timberwolves PG Anthony Carter missed his second straight game with a sore right foot. He had an MRI on Friday afternoon and the Timberwolves said he is day-to-day. … The Timberwolves wore their blue road jerseys as part of their “True Blue” fan appreciation night. … A couple from Caledonia, Minn., got married during a halftime ceremony. The bride wore white, and so did the groom – a white Garnett jersey, that is.

AP-ES-04-07-06 2229EDT

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