Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/3/13
SALT LAKE CITY -- During player introductions, Minnesota's Andrei Kirilenko received a warm welcome by the fans who cheered for him during the first 10 years of his NBA career. His old team was much less hospitable once the ball tipped off. The Utah Jazz spoiled Kirilenko's first return to Utah on Wednesday night, beating their former player and the Timberwolves 106-84 at EnergySolutions Arena. "It's very nice to play against this crowd. They've been very friendly," Kirilenko said. "I had a lot of adrenaline, of course, coming back here, playing in front the, I call, home crowd. I get used to this crowd." During his decade as a Jazz player, he also got used to a lot of blowouts in this arena. His team, however, rarely was the one getting trounced in Utah. That was the case on Wednesday night, though, after bench players Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter scored 17 and 15 points, respectively, to lead six Jazz players in double figures. That balanced effort helped Utah snap its three-game losing streak and improve to 16-17. The victory also helped sweeten the sour news the Jazz received earlier in the day. After a second MRI and follow-up evaluation by a hand specialist in New York City, it was determined that usual starting point guard Mo Williams will need surgery on his right thumb. The procedure will take place Friday by the doctor that performed surgery on the same thumb in 2008 to repair ligament damage. "This was a great win tonight. You know, it showed us what we can do if we concentrate on what we have to do," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "This is who we have and we have to figure out how we can be as good as we can be with this group right now." The Jazz bench outscored the Timberwolves reserves 53-27, which keyed Utah's third win in the past 10 games. As for Utah's starters, Paul Millsap scored 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting to atone for zero rebounds, Al Jefferson and Jamaal Tinsley each scored 12 points, and Marvin Williams returned from his knee injury to chip in 11 points. Kevin Love scored 13 points with 10 rebounds, Alexey Shved added 13 points and Kirilenko contributed 12 points and seven rebounds, but it wasn't enough for the cold-shooting Timberwolves. Minnesota, which continues a road back-to-back against Northwest Division opponents Thursday night in Denver, only shot 34.5 percent while falling to 14-14. The Jazz shot 49.4 percent and outscored the T-Wolves 56-36 in the paint. "It is the first time this happened all year. If you look around the league, people have bad games," said Minnesota coach Rick Adelman after his team's fourth straight road loss and fifth defeat in seven games. "The key is how we are going to respond (Thursday). I think that is probably the most telling thing." The Timberwolves took a one-point lead into the second quarter, but that's when the Jazz started to blow the game open. Utah went on a 15-4 run to begin the period, taking a 10-point lead on Kanter's free throws at the 7:44 mark. Before spraining his right ankle, Kanter had the highlight of the game in the second quarter by dribbling the ball from half court and finishing off with a strong dunk. The Jazz continued that momentum out of the locker room, scoring the first 13 points out of the break and using a 19-3 run to build a 20-point lead midway through the third quarter. "We could have got good news all week -- we still needed a win," Jefferson said. "We just knew that we had to go out there and do what we needed to do to win the game. That's what we did." Williams, who's missed the past five games with the injury that happened on Dec. 22 in Miami, will sport a splint and will be re-evaluated in six weeks, meaning his earliest return would be Feb. 23. "He's frustrated," Corbin said. "He's disappointed in the fact that he had to have surgery. He thought he was feeling better and he would do OK to come back a little sooner, but it's the smart thing to do and it's the right thing to do for him." Kirilenko, who signed with Minnesota this past offseason after sitting out the 2011-12 season to play in Russia, called his return to Utah "strange." In fact, the versatile forward said he didn't even know where the visitors' locker room was located in the arena he called home for the first 10 years of his NBA career. Kirilenko still owns a home in Salt Lake City -- one that he said looked "lonely" when he visited it Tuesday night. He smiled when asked what he hopes his legacy will be with Jazz fans. "I've always been a fan of being remembered as a good person rather than just a good player," said Kirilenko, who grabbed his 4,000th career rebound in the second quarter. "I think if the people remember you as a good personality, I think it goes a long way rather than just being a good player but being a ******* or whatever." NOTES: Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio missed his second consecutive game because of back spasms and is questionable for the Wolves' contest Thursday night at Denver. ... Kanter, who had a team-high eight rebounds, will be a game-time decision after spraining his ankle in the waning moments. ... Recent addition Lazar Hayward, signed on Dec. 31, did not play in his first game back with the Wolves. ... Jazz coaches Corbin and Sidney Lowe both played for Minnesota. Lowe was the Wolves' head coach from 1992-94. Utah has also two players -- Jefferson and Randy Foye -- who previously called Minnesota home. ... The Jazz play five of their next six games on the road, where they've struggled to a 6-13 record. ... Corbin on the rejuvenated Kirilenko claiming his 31-year-old legs feel like they're 25: "He's always saying that," joked Corbin, who coached the forward in Utah as an assistant and head coach for seven years. "He'll change next week and say he's old because he's been playing so long."
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