The future of the Minnesota Timberwolves gave a glimpse of what might be Monday night.
Timberwolves rookies Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins combined to score 49 points, leading their injury-ravaged team to a 106-104 overtime victory against the Utah Jazz.
It was the seventh road win of the season for Minnesota (16-54), who won for only the third time this month.
LaVine, winner of the NBA's slam dunk contest last month, scored 27 points. He made two three-pointers to force overtime, rallying the Timberwolves after they trailed by five with 1:02 left in regulation.
“If you all know me, I have the confidence to take and make any shot. That’s my mentality,” LaVine said. “That’s why I come in knocking them down.”
LaVine’s clutch shots in the fourth quarter set up a 6-1 Minnesota run to start overtime that the Jazz couldn’t overcome.
“Zach showed big Kahunas to go in there and make the shots that he hit,” Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. “Wiggins was big in the fourth quarter making shots, getting to the free throw line.”
The game featured some of the NBA’s top young stars. Wiggins, last year’s No 1 overall draft pick, scored 22 points and fellow rookie Sean Kilpatrick added 13 off the bench for Minnesota. Chase Budinger had 15 points, including an overtime three that gave the Timberwolves a 102-97 lead.
Second-year centre Rudy Gobert had 18 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks for the Jazz. Rookie forward Joe Ingles scored a career-high 18, and Derrick Favors added 19 points and 12 boards.
Trey Burke shot 4-of-22 for Utah and missed a 32-footer at the buzzer that would have won the game. He also missed a three-pointer off the side of the backboard at the end of regulation.
“(LaVine) hit some big shots tonight. Some of those shots ... against any defence he would have made that shot. First half, we didn’t play good defensively,” Burke said.
The Jazz (31-39) were without leading scorer Gordon Hayward for the second time this season. He sat out with a sprained shoulder.
Utah clearly missed Hayward, who is averaging 19.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.
“It’s tough because he’s definitely a piece of our team that gets us going,” said Burke, who had 16 points. “He scores the ball at a high pace for us. Defences are focused on him a lot, so it frees up a lot of other guys.”
Timberwolves rookies combined to score 66 per cent of Minnesota’s points. “I’m really proud of the guys,” Saunders said. Minnesota were without eight of their 16 players due to injury. That included Kevin Garnett (sore left knee), Ricky Rubio (sore right ankle) and Anthony Bennett (sprained right ankle), who were all with the team but did not dress.
“The one thing is, when you’re only playing seven or eight guys, one thing they know, they know they’re going to play,” Saunders said. “That’s the positive. You hope what doesn’t happen is that they don’t pace themselves. Two of our last three games ... we just ran out of gas.”
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