Boozer tries to build on a career-best scoring performance when the Northwest Division-leading Jazz meet the slumping Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Boozer had a personal-best 41 points and added 16 boards for his career-high 43rd double-double to lead Utah (46-24) to a 103-97 win over Washington on Monday night.
“I picked up my energy and my focus. I started being more aggressive, taking it to the hoop,” said Boozer, who’s averaging career-highs with 21.3 points and 11.8 rebounds. “For me, I was just in a zone.”
The forward-center scored 16 of his points in the fourth quarter and became the first Utah player with 41 in a game since Malone, the team’s all-time leader in scoring and rebounding leader, in a win over Philadelphia on Dec. 20, 2000.
Boozer, who scored 39 points in an overtime loss to Memphis on Jan. 24 for his previous career high, made two free throws Monday to clinch Utah’s sixth straight home win.
“Well, that was huge,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “I felt a little uneasy because he’d had a tough time making free throws, but I knew he’s been around long enough to know that’s not going to bother him.”
Boozer joined the Jazz as a free agent from Cleveland amid controversy prior to the 2004-05 season. Boozer was hampered by foot, ankle and hamstring injuries during his first two seasons in Utah and missed eight more games this season with a broken left leg, but now he has a chance to take the Utah on a playoff run.
First, the former Duke star will try to help the Jazz get closer to their first division title since they won a club-record four straight Midwest Division crowns in a row from 1997-2000 with Malone leading the way.
The Jazz’s resurgence this season after finishing 41-41 in 2005-06 is in part courtesy of the third-best home record in the NBA at 28-7, behind only Dallas (31-4) and Phoenix (29-7).
Boozer has contributed to that stellar home record with 23.8 points and 12.7 rebounds. He’s averaged only 11.3 points and 9.0 boards in three games against Minnesota.
The Jazz, though, have taken two of the three contests with the Timberwolves (30-40), who will attempt to rebound from blowing the biggest lead in franchise history in a 114-106 loss to Seattle on Tuesday.
Up by 25 points with five minutes left in the third quarter, Minnesota was outscored 51-18 the rest of the way and 25-2 to end the game, dropping the team four games back of the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
“It’s been the same thing all year,” Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. “We play the right way for three quarters. … We either don’t respect the game or don’t respect the opponent. It comes back to get you every time.”
Despite shooting just 8 of 19 from the field, Garnett finished one assist shy a triple-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds. He had double-doubles in his first two games against Utah this season, averaging 24.0 points and 12.5 rebounds, but was held to a season-low four boards in a 109-83 loss on March 2.