MINNEAPOLIS (CBSLA.com/AP) — Al Jefferson had 22 points and eight rebounds to help Utah keep its playoff hopes alive with a 96-80 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
Mo Williams had 15 points and seven assists for the Jazz, who needed a win to avoid being eliminated in the Western Conference playoff race.
The Jazz need to win at Memphis on Wednesday and for the Los Angeles Lakers, who are coming off a 91-86 win against San Antonio, to lose at home against Houston that night to get into the playoffs. They own the tiebreaker after beating the Lakers two out of three times this season.
Derrick Williams had 18 points and six rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were missing center Nikola Pekovic with a bruised left calf.
The Jazz entered the night clinging to the postseason picture, down 1 1/2 games to the Lakers with two to play.
For a team that could have as many as nine expiring contracts this summer, the Jazz are desperately chasing one more playoff appearance. Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams and Randy Foye all could be looking for new teams when the season ends, with a bevy of young players waiting to assume larger roles next year.
They’ve won nine of their last 11 games since a four-game losing streak in the middle of last month threatened to bury them.
Utah didn’t play all that well early, but it was just good enough to stay on top of a Timberwolves team that is slogging to the finish of another long season. The Wolves shot just 33 percent in the first quarter, and without Pekovic patrolling the paint they didn’t grab an offensive rebound until late in the third quarter.
A 13-4 run by Minnesota cut Utah’s lead to three points late in the third quarter, but once again the Wolves had no answer for Jefferson. The former Wolf scored 40 against the Wolves in a 107-100 win on Friday night in Salt Lake City and continued to attack the team’s soft middle on Monday night. He scored six straight points after Minnesota’s run to give the Jazz some breathing room again, and they never looked back.
Foye scored 14 points for the Jazz.
The Timberwolves have one game left in what has been a miserable, injury-plagued season. They will enter this offseason as they have every one since 2004 — with a spot in the lottery coming in June and plenty of questions about the roster and who will be back to lead it. Owner Glen Taylor has been mum on president David Kahn’s future. Kahn has a team option on his contract for next season.
Coach Rick Adelman has two years left on his deal, but has considered stepping down to help his wife Mary Kay, who is being treated for seizures. Her condition caused him to miss 11 games earlier this season. She is due to meet with doctors again shortly after the season ends and Adelman is hoping her condition will continue to stabilize. Before the game, Adelman said he was going forward with the idea that he would be back next season and hoped to have a definitive answer in the next couple of weeks.
“I think what happens with Mary Kay or any of that, that certainly would turn things in a different direction,” Adelman said. “Right now I don’t see that (happening), but I’m going to wait and see until we talk to the doctors and see what direction they’ve decided we need to go at this point. Then we’ll move from there.”
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