For a while, it didn’t look like the Utah Jazz had a chance to win their own division, let alone the Western Conference. With the way they’ve played lately, nothing seems out of reach.
Boasting the NBA’s second-best record in 2008, Utah looks to win for the 15th time in 17 games on Tuesday when it hits the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Jazz (36-20) are 19-4 since the start of January, surging to the top of the Northwest Division. Only the Houston Rockets (21-4) have a better record in 2008.
Utah rebounded from Friday’s 114-104 loss at the Los Angeles Clippers with a 100-94 home win over Atlanta on Saturday. Seven Jazz players scored in double figures against the Hawks, including a team-high 21 points and 12 rebounds from Carlos Boozer.
“It wasn’t the prettiest win, but we’ll take it. It was a good bounce-back from getting blown out in L.A. Coming back here, we maintained our focus,” Boozer said after his 39th double-double.
A balanced scoring effort is nothing new from the Jazz, who have six players averaging in double figures. Boozer is the leading scorer at 21.5 points per game, with Deron Williams close behind.
The third-year point guard is averaging 21.9 points and 10.0 assists in his last eight games, and has 13 double-doubles in his last 15 games.
Williams, whose 9.7 assists per game rank him among the league’s top five, has enjoyed having another shooter to help pad those totals with the addition of Kyle Korver to the rotation. Since Korver entered the lineup on Dec. 31 after being acquired from Philadelphia, he’s averaging 10.5 points off the bench and Utah is 20-4.
Minnesota (11-43) has yet to win a game within the Northwest, as it’s 0-8 against division rivals. The Timberwolves have yet to meet the Jazz, but the teams will play four times between now and April 2.
Coach Randy Wittman’s team has dropped seven of its past eight games, with all but one of those coming at home. Minnesota was tied with Dallas on Sunday heading into the fourth quarter, but was outscored 28-12 in the final 12 minutes of a 99-83 defeat.
“We just made some mistakes you can’t make against a good team like that,” Timberwolves forward Al Jefferson said. “They did a great job of running their offense and getting off their shots. They did exactly what you know they’re going to do.”
Jefferson has been a bright spot for a Minnesota team with the worst record in the Western Conference. He’s averaging 21.3 points and is among the league’s leading rebounders, pulling down 11.9 per game.
Other than Jefferson, the Timberwolves have had trouble finding consistent scoring, particularly on the perimeter. Rashad McCants is averaging 14.5 points while shooting 40.7 percent from 3-point range, but Ryan Gomes (11.6) is the only other Minnesota player scoring in double figures.
The Jazz have beaten the Timberwolves in six of their last seven meetings, with three of those wins coming at the Target Center.