THE FACTS: The Utah Jazz won for the ninth time in 11 games on Monday night, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 96-80.
It's a hot streak that has earned them one final shot at a playoff berth. Facing elimination from the Western Conference playoff race, the Jazz (43-38) got 22 points from Al Jefferson. Golden State also got 15 and 14, respectively, from starting guards Mo Williams and Randy Foye in the win to set up a final-day showdown for eighth place in the West.
Utah must win its season finale in Memphis on Wednesday, then hope Houston beats the Lakers in Los Angeles, which would create a tie between the Jazz and Lakers. Utah holds the tiebreaker by virtue of its 2-1 record against Los Angeles this year. Derrick Williams led Minnesota (30-51) with 18 points, but the Jazz opened a 10-point lead in the first five minutes and never trailed again.
QUOTABLE: "I guess I need to try to get in touch with [Rocket's coach] Kevin McHale. Tell him to handle it for me -- give me a late birthday present."
-- Jazz center Al Jefferson, whose chance to make the playoffs for the first time in his career depends upon the Rockets beating the Lakers on Wednesday
THE STAT: 3-for-4 -- Utah's 3-point shooting in the second half, after an 0-for-7 first half, helping the Jazz survive Minnesota's third-quarter run.
TURNING POINT: Jefferson had taken only one third-quarter shot against Wolves' center Greg Stiemsma, slowing the Jazz's offense and allowing the Wolves to close a 14-point gap to just three, 61-58, with two minutes left in the period. But Stiemsma picked up his fourth foul, and Danta Cunningham, three inches shorter and 60 pounds lighter, suddenly had to guard Jefferson for the short-handed Wolves. Utah fed Jefferson the ball down low, and he scored eight points in the next three minutes to spark a 14-4 run that put the Wolves away.
QUOTABLE II: "Character. ... I've seen teams go all kinds of ways [under pressure], but there was no quit in this group of guys, and they didn't quit on me."
-- Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin
HOT: Jefferson finished with 22 points and eight rebounds, which actually lowered his scoring average against his former team to 23.5 points and 9.3 rebounds in their four meetings this season.
NOT: Wolves guard Ricky Rubio continues to look exhausted as his first full NBA season winds to a close. He went only 2-for-9 shots, and neither of his 3-pointers, against the Jazz, and dished out only four assists. Rubio is averaging 11.7 points in April, but he has made only 29-for-98 shots from the field (29.6 percent) during the month.
INSIDE THE ARENA: The Wolves held a moment of silence before the game for the victims of the Boston Marathon explosion.
GOOD MOVE: The Jazz's lead was in single digits early in the fourth quarter, in part because Utah was only 1-for-8 on 3-pointers. But twice in their next four possessions, the Jazz twice worked the ball to Paul Millsap, and both times he swung it outside to Foye, alone in the corner. Foye nailed both 3-pointers, the latter extending Utah's lead to 18.
BAD MOVE: It was hardly his fault given that center Nikola Pekovic wasn't able to play, but Wolves coach Rick Adelman, faced with Steimsma's fourth foul, put Cunningham on the Jazz center late in the third quarter, and Utah's offense suddenly became unstoppable. The game got out of control so quickly, Adelman never even put Stiemsma back in the game.
ROOKIE WATCH: Wolves guard Alexey Shved scored four points with four assists against the Jazz, the 15th time in his last 16 games that he has scored fewer than 10 points. Shved opened the season by reaching double figures 20 times in the first 33 games of his NBA career.
NOTABLE: Wolves center Pekovic missed his third straight game with a bruised shin, but he said he hoped to play in Wednesday's finale in San Antonio. ... That game represents the Wolves' last chance to win five games in April for the first time since 2005. Minnesota has four wins this April -- or as many as they have had in the past four Aprils combined. ... Adelman said he intends to make up his mind about returning for a third season with the Timberwolves within the next couple of weeks. Adelman, 56-91 in two seasons in Minnesota, missed three weeks in January while his wife was hospitalized for seizures. ... Utah has won five straight games over the Timberwolves, sweeping this year's season series. ... The Wolves finished with a 20-21 record in Target Center, just missing their first winning home record since 2005-06.
UP NEXT: For the Jazz, Wednesday @ Memphis. For the Timberwolves, Wednesday @ San Antonio.