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.Next Page »