MINNEAPOLIS — This whole starting lineup thing seems to be agreeing with Josh Howard.
The veteran 6-foot-7 forward, filling in when starting guard Raja Bell was forced out of Utah's starting lineup with a nagging injury, scored 13 first-half points, including six straight during a one-man, second-quarter surge that helped the Jazz grab a 49-37 halftime lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night at the Target Center.
Howard, averaging 7.6 points per game thus far this season, nearly doubled that with his first-half shooting performance -- shooting 6-of-9 from the field, including 1-of-1 from 3-point range. He also had four rebounds and two assists.
Paul Millsap had 10 points and six rebounds, and former T-Wolves star Al Jefferson aded eight points and five boards. Gordon Hayward and Devin Harris each had six points, and Harris handed out five first-half assists for a Jazz team that shot 49 percent in the first half and held the home-standing Timberwolves to just 30.7 percent shooting -- and a frosty, Minnesota-like 19 percent in the first period.
Kevin Love led the T-wolves with seven points and eight rebounds. Nikola Pekovic also had eight boards but, as the poster boy for his team's frigid first-half shooting, was 0-for-7 from the field.
The Jazz jumped out to a 10-2 lead midway through the first period and extended it to 20-8 late in the quarter.
Jefferson hit two long jumpers to make it 27-13, but with he and Millsap both sent to the bench with a pair of personal fouls apiece, Minnesota managed to stay within 27-15 at the first stop.
Dunks by C.J. Miles and Alec Burks pushed Utah's lead to 39-21 early in the second quarter, but Ricky Rubio and Jose Barea buried back-to-back 3-pointers in an 8-0 run that cut Utah's lead to 39-29.
Then Howard went to work, hitting a jump shot, a driving layup and a turnaround jumper in a personal 6-0 run that made it 45-29 with 2:07 to go in the half.
Barea scored five quick points and Rubio hit another 3 to pull the T-Wolves within 47-37, but Harris hit a layup at the halftime buzzer to give the Jazz at 12-point margin at intermission.