MINNEAPOLIS — The Utah Jazz's path to the playoffs is finally clear.
Utah has to win at Minnesota tonight and at Memphis, and the Jazz then need Houston to beat the Lakers in Los Angeles after their game against the Grizzlies last Wednesday.
It's that simple.
"We're still in the fight," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said at his team's shootaround this morning. "We just have to make sure we take care of our business the last two ballgames now."
Utah has beaten the T-Wolves five times in a row and in all three meetings this season, including Friday's 107-100 victory at EnergySolutions Arena.
But Minnesota fought back to take the lead late against the Jazz in Utah, and the T-Wolves could have injured big man Nikola Pekovic back after he missed Friday's contest with a left calf contusion.
Jazz center Al Jefferson took advantage of the 6-foot-11, 291-pounder's absence, compiling 40 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
"I hope they don't do nothing different," Jefferson said. "But I'm pretty sure a smart coach (Rick Adelman), they're going to come with a different game plan."
Jefferson said he's well aware of what's at stake in this 6 p.m. game at the Target Center.
"It just means now we've got to take care of this game tonight," Big Al said. "As far as Wednesday, just whatever happens, happens. We've got to take care of our game and hopefully Houston takes care of them. But first of all, it's got to start tonight for us."
Interestingly, the Jazz (42-38) play both of their final games before the Lakers (44-37) take on the Rockets in their season-finale.
"Our backs are against the wall. We've still got to go win," Jazz point guard Mo Williams said. "Obviously we've got to win both games now and we've got to hope for a gift, so the pressure's there. The must-win factor's still there."
The Jazz have already secured their 25th winning season in the past 29 years. They’re currently tied for the most wins by a Jazz team that didn't qualify for the postseason. Utah went 42-40 the year after John Stockton and Karl Malone retired, but the Jazz missed out on the playoffs at the end of that 2003-04 season.
Jefferson is holding out hope, though, that won't be repeated this week.
He didn't find out until about six hours after the Lakers defeated the Spurs what the Jazz's situation is.
"Actually, I didn't even watch the game last night. I went to sleep and woke up about 4 this morning, looked at the score and seen that San Antonio didn't help us out," Jefferson said. "I'm not concerned about them. I just felt like Houston fighting for something. They're trying to get into that sixth spot. Hopefully, they'll come in and give us something."
Utah comes into this one having won eight of 10 games. The Jazz have also won two straight road games, which they'll need to repeat to remain alive.
But they are well aware of their difficult predicament.
"We know that. We talk about it," Corbin said, mentioning that they're more focused on doing what they need to do rather than lamenting over the Lakers' wins.
"We need the importance of each and every game. We've talked about it for a while. They know if we lose a game like tonight you put yourself pretty much out of it. We've got to make sure we take care of our business. It's one game. We want to make sure we take care of this one before we worry about the one over in Memphis."
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