Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson leads in win over Minnesota
Jefferson leads Utah to a narrow win as Jazz stay put in Western Conference standings.
Published: April 13, 2013 02:12PM
Updated: April 13, 2013 12:00PM
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Al Jefferson

Al Jefferson huffed, and he puffed, and he brought the house down.

Your move, Wolves.

Jefferson’s last shot in a 40-point effort dropped with less than a minute left, just the last effort to will the Jazz to a 107-100 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. It not only kept them in the playoff race, but also catapulted them back into playoff position — for a couple of hours.

That was what drove Jefferson to an effort in which he tied his career high with 40 points and added 13 rebounds and six assists.

“I’ve been in that type of zone many times before,” said Jefferson. “But tonight it was all about the playoffs.”

So it will be on Monday, in a rematch with the T-wolves in Minneapolis. Another Jazz win likely sets up a make-or-break final day of the regular season.

The Jazz remain one game behind the Los Angeles Lakers, after another come-from-behind win in Los Angeles, this one over the Golden State Warriors. Where Kobe Bryant has carried the Lakers late in the season, the Jazz, finally, on Friday had their own hero.

If the playoffs remain out of reach for the Jazz, Friday may have marked the last time the center appeared at EnergySolutions Arena as a member of the Jazz after being traded from the Timberwolves in 2010. With young post players waiting in the wings for the Jazz, and unknown deep pockets potentially eager to chase Jefferson, a free-agent-to-be, this win could have marked the final time he danced his veritable basketball ballet.

For a capstone, he unleashed a devastating flurry of drop steps and spins and little hook shots and spot-up jumpers. But his last basket, with 39.3 seconds left in the game, was less pristine. He dribbled the ball and lost it. The shot clock ticked. He recovered the rock. He maybe double-dribbled; it went uncalled. He turned and willed his signature one-handed push shot over the front of the rim and into the basket.

A night to remember, no? No, Jefferson has other plans.

“I say forget it,” he said. “Start from scratch. Forget it, be ready to play Monday.”

Even on fan appreciation night, there was little celebration. The Jazz remained on the court to throw out plastic balls to the 19,609 in attendance, then retreated to a locker room, where they remained as serious as during their fourth-quarter effort.

“I think this is the most focused I’ve ever seen this team here,” Jefferson said. “We’re happy to get the win, but at the end of the day we know our job’s not done.”

Despite Minnesota being down two starters, including reigning Western Conference player of the week Nikola Pekovic, the Jazz had to fight — almost literally, as Derrick Favors and Greg Stiemsma were separated in the fourth quarter — for their latest must-win.

Jefferson had just 11 points at halftime, but shot 14 of 19 in the second half to match a scoring total he’d hit just twice in his career, and not since 2008.

“I’ve seen him in that zone a little bit before,” Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward said, “and it’s something special. He’s hard to stop there on that block.”

His six assists, one off a career high, included a pair of passes out of the double-team on the first two possessions of the fourth quarter, leading to 3-pointers.

If it was his last game in front of the Jazz home fans, it may have been his best, coach Tyrone Corbin said.

“Not just scores,” he said. “Some big passes to his teammates to relieve the pressure.”

Mo Williams and Randy Foye both finished with 16 points for the Jazz, including 5-of-7 shooting by Foye on 3-pointers.

J.J. Barea led Minnesota with 23 points, but perhaps played a greater role with his typically pesky play, drawing the flagrant foul on Favors that preceded his dust-up with Stiemsma and later in the fourth quarter an offensive foul on Mo Williams.

The Jazz trailed by as many as seven in the third quarter, which was Jefferson’s best. He finished with 19 points in the frame.

“He’s doing a great job of mixing his attempts at the basket,” Corbin said, “and sometimes he can go against two guys. But when he’s one-on-one on that block against most guys, we get some good stuff.”

boram@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz

Highlights

O Al Jefferson ties a career high with 40 points and also grabs 13 boards.

• Jazz shoot 58.3 percent from the field.

LAKERS WIN, KOBE INJURED • The L.A. Lakers defeat Golden State 118-116 on Friday to stay one game ahead of the Jazz for eighth place in the Western Conference. But the win comes at a cost as Kobe Bryant tears a tendon and is likely done for the season. > D4

Playoffs race

Western Conference

W L GB

5. Memphis 54 25 41/2

6. Golden State 45 35 13

7. Houston 44 35 141/2

8. L.A. Lakers 43 37 16

9. Utah 42 38 17

Top eight teams advance to the postseason

Jazz 107, Timberwolves 100

FG FT Reb

Minn. Min M-A M-A O-T A PF Pts

Kirilenko 23:33 3-6 2-2 1-3 3 2 8

DWillms 22:20 4-9 2-2 3-6 0 1 11

Stimsma 40:34 4-9 2-2 1-7 1 4 10

Rubio 25:29 4-7 3-3 0-2 3 4 13

Ridnour 23:51 4-7 2-2 0-1 4 1 10

Barea 27:17 6-14 9-10 0-4 3 2 23

Budnger 24:41 5-11 0-0 1-3 0 1 12

Shved 19:23 1-5 0-0 0-0 5 1 3

Cnnghm 25:40 4-9 0-0 3-4 2 0 8

Johnson 7:12 1-1 0-0 0-1 0 2 2

Totals 240:00 36-78 20-21 9-31 21 18 100

Percentages: FG .462, FT .952. 3-Point Goals: 8-22, .364 (Rubio 2-3, Budinger 2-5, Barea 2-6, D.Williams 1-2, Shved 1-3, Cunningham 0-1, Kirilenko 0-1, Ridnour 0-1). Team Rebounds: 4. Team Turnovers: 11 (9 PTS). Blocked Shots: 3 (Stiemsma 2, Johnson). Turnovers: 10 (Ridnour 4, Barea 2, Rubio 2, Stiemsma, D.Williams). Steals: 10 (Stiemsma 3, Ridnour 2, Rubio 2, Budinger, Cunningham, Shved). Technical Fouls: Defensive three second, 1:15 third.

FG FT Reb

Utah Min M-A M-A O-T A PF Pts

Hayward 33:02 1-5 2-2 0-2 5 0 5

Millsap 23:49 5-7 0-2 0-3 1 3 10

Jeffersn 40:37 19-27 2-2 3-13 6 1 40

M Wllms 30:39 5-12 6-6 0-1 5 5 16

Foye 37:46 5-8 1-1 0-2 1 2 16

Favors 31:19 2-6 2-2 2-8 0 4 6

Burks 19:13 3-4 0-0 1-4 0 2 7

MaWllms 16:37 1-2 2-2 0-3 2 1 4

Tinsley 6:59 1-1 0-0 0-0 3 1 3

Totals 240:00 42-72 15-17 6-36 23 19 107

Percentages: FG .583, FT .882. 3-Point Goals: 8-13, .615 (Foye 5-7, Burks 1-1, Tinsley 1-1, Hayward 1-2, M. Williams 0-2). Team Rebounds: 4. Team Turnovers: 18 (23 PTS). Blocked Shots: 4 (Favors 2, Millsap 2). Turnovers: 18 (Favors 5, Jefferson 5, Millsap 3, M. Williams 2, Foye, Hayward, Ma.Williams). Steals: 8 (Favors 3, Foye 2, Hayward 2, M. Williams). Technical Fouls: None. Flagrant Fouls: Favors, 4:49 fourth.

Minnesota 22 32 27 19 — 100

Utah 30 23 29 25 — 107

Attendance • 19,609

Time • 2:10.

Officials • Ron Garretson, Derrick Collins, Derek Richardson.