Jazz-Timberwolves Preview

The Associated PressApril 14, 2013

Three days after delivering one of the best performances of his career against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Al Jefferson looks to keep the Utah Jazz's playoff hopes alive in the rematch.

The Jazz will try for their fifth straight win in the series and ninth in 11 games overall as they travel to Minneapolis on Monday night.

With two games remaining, Utah (42-38) needs to win out and have the Los Angeles Lakers lose one of their final two contests to secure the final Western Conference playoff spot. The Jazz hold the tiebreaker over the Lakers by virtue of winning the season series.

"The playoffs started a month ago for us,'' Jefferson said.

The forward made certain the Jazz didn't lose any ground as he tied a career high with 40 points and shot 19 of 27 in a 107-100 home win over the Timberwolves on Friday.

Jefferson, who played three seasons in Minnesota from 2007-10, will try to deliver another big game and lead the Jazz to their first sweep of the Timberwolves since 1998-99. Utah is 12-27 on the road but has won two in a row there.

"Focus. Focus,'' coach Tyrone Corbin said. "They play well at home. They have great fans in Minnesota. They're really going to be hyped for this game. They know how important it is for us. So that's really going to motivate them to be spoilers, so we want to come in focused and ready to play.''

Minnesota has won four of six at home after a 105-93 victory over Phoenix on Saturday.

Ricky Rubio led the way with a career-high 24 points and 10 assists to help the Timberwolves (30-50) snap a three-game losing streak. J.J. Barea scored 16 off the bench after finishing with a season-high 23 against the Jazz.

"Of course we're happy because we're improving, but it's not enough," said Rubio, who had 18 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in a 97-93 home loss to the Jazz on Feb. 13.

Forward Derrick Williams added 24 points and a career-best 16 boards in that game. He scored 15 while shooting 7 of 12 against the Suns.

Center Nikola Pekovic, who has missed the past two games with a left calf contusion, will likely be a game-time decision. He's averaged 21.0 points and 55.9 percent from the field in his last seven contests.

The Timberwolves have scored 92.3 points while making 38.1 percent of their shots - 24.6 from 3-point range - in dropping all three meetings this season.

They may not get a better result Monday as Utah has limited opponents to 90.8 points and 43.5 percent shooting in its last four games.

Forward Paul Millsap, who's averaged 9.7 points in his last three games - 5.1 below his season mark - has averaged 23.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 56.3 percent shooting in his last three in Minnesota.

After shooting a season-best 58.3 percent Friday, Utah has averaged 103.3 points and 50.0 percent from the field against the Timberwolves.

The Jazz have won 10 of the past 12 meetings.