“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.”
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