The odds are certainly not in their favor, but their situation improved greatly Monday night. The Utah Jazz did what they absolutely had to do, taking care of the Minnesota Timberwolves in a big 96-80 road victory. Now their postseason fates will be determined Wednesday in what could be an exciting evening.
As evidenced by the score, this rematch was not nearly as close as last weekend’s outing in Salt Lake City. The Jazz jumped out to a quick 16-2 lead and while Minnesota was able to keep things within striking distance, Utah never was truly threatened.
The Jazz will finish the season versus the Memphis Grizzlies, while the Los Angeles Lakers are pitted against the Houston Rockets. If Utah wins and L.A. loses, the Jazz would earn a playoff berth by virtue of a tiebreaker.
Team effort: While Al Jefferson enjoyed perhaps the finest game of his career Friday night, no such heroics were necessary to help garner the win Monday. Jefferson did indeed pace the team with 22 points and eight rebounds, but he certainly had plenty of help.
Mo Williams brought the energy early on and had a solid floor game. He finished with 15 points, a game-high seven assists and four steals. He pushed the pace and helped Utah gets some easy baskets via early offensive sets. His backcourt mate, Randy Foye, displayed a little more aggressiveness, taking the ball to the hoop a few times. The mix of inside-outside for Foye resulted in a nice 14-point, three-assist outing.
Third-year players Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward were not dominant, but they definitely contributed. Despite first-half foul trouble, Favors was able to throw in 12 points and corral six rebounds. Hayward was quieter, scoring eight points to go with six rebounds of his own.
Odds and ends:
• Featuring a point guard-heavy lineup (Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved), Minnesota head coach Rick Adelman continued his season-long trend of playing two or more of them for much of the game.
• Eight Utah players saw 19 or more minutes of playing time and each fielded a plus-8 or better plus-minus mark.
• The duo of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic, both injured, constitute 34.6 points and 22.8 rebounds missing for the Timberwolves.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.