The Utah Jazz are comfortably in a position to end their three-year playoff drought. The Minnesota Timberwolves will surely hit that mark if their recent slump continues.

The Jazz look to extend their Northwest Division lead as they visit a Minnesota squad trying to bounce back from one of its worst offensive performances in franchise history.

Utah (38-19) has won nine of its last 11 games, including a 104-88 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. The Jazz lead second-place Denver by 9 1/2 games in the Northwest and are 12 ahead of Minnesota. They haven't won a division title since 1999-2000, which is also the last season they advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs.

Jerry Sloan's team has failed to make the postseason the last three years, but thanks to a collective team effort, it appears poised to be a contender this season. The Jazz shot 54.1 percent (40-for-74) from the floor Wednesday, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range.

Leading scorer Carlos Boozer totaled 24 points and 16 rebounds in his best performance in four games since returning from a fractured left fibula that caused him to miss eight contests. Deron Williams recorded a double-double in his return to the lineup after missing one game with a groin injury, but it was the play of reserve Matt Harpring that drew the most attention as he scored a season-high 25 points on 7-of-12 shooting

He is averaging 11.1 points, but that number has jumped to 19.0 over the last four contests.

"The last three or four games since the break, he's been killing them,'' said Boozer, who hit 12 of 16 shots Wednesday. "You get that kind of production off the bench, that's incredible.''

The Jazz hope for more of that production as they play the middle contest of their three-game road trip. Minnesota (26-31) dropped to 1-3 on its five-game homestand with a 91-65 defeat to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.

The Timberwolves shot a franchise-worst 29.6 percent (24-for-81) from the field and were held to eight points in the second quarter and 12 in the fourth. Minnesota is 10th in the Western Conference and in danger of missing the playoffs for the third straight season with losses in 15 of its last 21 games.

"I don't think it's about our shooting. I think it's about pride, and that we don't have right now,'' said Marko Jaric, who went scoreless in 10 minutes of play. "We need to find it."

Minnesota leading scorer Kevin Garnett recorded 15 points and 13 rebounds Tuesday while Ricky Davis (15 points) and Mark Blount (10) were the only other Timberwolves in double figures.

"We don't have the experience nor the personnel to sort of get us in positions to climb ourselves out,'' said Garnett, who had his fewest points since Jan. 19. "We sometimes hang our hats on our youthfulness, and sometimes that's a disadvantage.''

These teams have split two meetings this season, but the Jazz have won four of the last five overall.


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