They don’t have to worry about that anymore.
Jefferson, now with the Jazz, will face his former team for his first time Wednesday night as he tries to help Jerry Sloan move into sole possession of third place on the all-time coaching wins list against the Timberwolves, who are returning home from a winless six-game road trip.
Despite capturing the Northwest Division in 2009-10, Utah (20-9) split its four-game season series with a Minnesota team that won just 15 games. The Jazz had little trouble offensively against the Timberwolves, averaging 105.3 points, but had few answers for stopping Jefferson.
Jefferson made such a strong impression, the Jazz quickly made a move to acquire him after losing power forward Carlos Boozer(notes) to free agency over the summer. The move is proving to be a good one, as Jefferson has done a solid job of replacing Boozer and filling in for injured center Mehmet Okur(notes) in helping Utah to its best start since opening 21-9 in 2006-07.
Jefferson is third on the Jazz in scoring at 16.3 per game, averaging a team-best 8.8 rebounds and Utah is 11-3 when he notches at least 18 points. He was one of five Jazz players to score at least 16 points in Monday’s 101-90 win at Cleveland, as Sloan moved into a tie with Pat Riley for the third-most coaching wins in NBA history.
Sloan, Utah’s coach since 1988, has 1,210 victories, 122 fewer than Lenny Wilkens for second place.
“I don’t have any thoughts on it,” Sloan said of the accomplishment. “That’s not how I ever played or how I’ve ever coached. Obviously, I like to win, but I couldn’t win without the coaches I’ve had with me.”
Sloan’s success also stems from a bevy of talented players, especially at the point guard position.
Deron Williams(notes) had 17 points and 10 assists Monday, and the Jazz are 19-2 when he has at least eight assists. The sixth-year star has recorded at least eight assists in all 16 games against the Timberwolves since 2006-07, and 11 or more in each of the last 11.
Williams appears to pose as a major problem for Minnesota, which is coming off another dismal defensive performance.
The Timberwolves (6-23) lost to the Los Angeles Clippers 113-90 on Monday to complete a six-game trip with a 12th straight road defeat. Minnesota, which surrendered at least 107 points in each game of the trek, allowed the Clippers to shoot 51.8 percent and match an opponent season worst with 62 points in the paint.
“We didn’t execute our game plan on the defensive end by any means,” said Kevin Love(notes), limited to 12 points two days after scoring a career-high 43 in a loss to Denver. “This isn’t how you want to end a road trip.”
Defense has been a major issue for the Timberwolves for the last month, as they’ve lost 14 of 16, winning the only two games in which they allowed fewer than 100 points.