Friday night was the Utah Jazz’s last home game of the regular season.
But Al Jefferson did all he could to try and stop it from being the last game he and his teammates will play at EnergySolutions Arena this spring.
Jefferson hit 2 big buckets in the final minutes of his 40-point night to lead the Jazz to a 107-100 victory over the Timberwolves.
“I felt like it started with me,” Jefferson said. “I felt like, no disrespect to them, I had the advantage on the block because they were trying to guard me one-on-one.”
Trying but not succeeding.
With the Utah Jazz needing a win to remain in contention for a playoff spot, Jefferson had his biggest game in his 3 years with Utah Jazz. The former Minnesota player tied his career-high in scoring on 19-of-27 shooting, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out a season-high 6 assists.
“He was dominant and I feed somebody when they are that hot, so that’s what I attempted to do,” Utah Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward said of Jefferson. “They were doing numerous things to try and not let us get the ball there, but we found him and he converted.”
The Utah Jazz improved to 42-38 to keep up with the Lakers, who took a 42-37 record into their game against the Warriors. Utah owns the tiebreaker against the L.A Lakers and would earn the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs if the 2 teams end up tied.
J.J. Barea scored 23 points off the bench for the Timberwolves, who dropped to 29-50 but put up a gutsy fight despite being outmanned. Basketball scores
Minnesota played without reigning Western Conference player of the week Nikola Pekovic, who dressed but failed to play as a result of a left calf contusion. Backup big man Greg Stiemsma started at center.
“Our guys competed tonight,” Timberwolves Coach Rick Adelman related. “Al Jefferson actually got it going and when we doubled him they made 3s. They did what they were had to do.”
Randy Foye and Mo Williams each scored 16 points for the Utah Jazz, who’ve won 8 of 10 games to hit back into playoff contention.
Jefferson gave the Jazz the lead for good at 99-98 after snapping an 8-0 T-wolves streak. He then had another big bucket with 39.3 second remaining. He lost his dribble but then quickly put up a leaner to give Utah a 3-point advantage after beating the shot clock.
Williams then hit 6 free throws down the stretch to clinch the win for Utah.
Things got feisty in the 4th quarter. Derrick Favors, the Jazz’s 6-foot-10 backup big man, pushed 6-foot Barea after the small Timberwolves guard put his shoulder and elbow in his midsection while he turned around to head downcourt.
Barea plopped onto the court and Favors was requested a flagrant foul. That sequence shifted momentum Minnesota’s way.
Barea hit both flagrant free throws, cutting the Jazz’s lead directly to 97-92 with 4:49 remaining.
Minnesota continued an 8-0 run when Ricky Rubio hit consecutive 3-pointers, giving the T-wolves a 98-97 lead with 3:52 to go.