The Utah Jazz has been playing with a win-or-go-home desperation for the last three weeks. And it's all come down to one last game. Al Jefferson had 22...
MINNEAPOLIS — The Utah Jazz has been playing with a win-or-go-home desperation for the last three weeks. And it’s all come down to one last game.
Al Jefferson had 22 points and eight rebounds to help Utah keep its playoff hopes alive with a 96-80 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night, setting up one more must-win game in the season finale on Wednesday.
“It comes down to one game now,” Jefferson said. “It’s a big game. The only thing we can worry about is what we can control, going out there and trying to take care of the game, and trying to win, and just leave the rest up to the Lakers, I guess.”
Mo Williams had 15 points and seven assists for the Jazz, which needed a win to avoid being eliminated in the Western Conference playoff race.
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To get into the playoffs, the Jazz need to win at Memphis on Wednesday and for the Los Angeles Lakers to lose at home against Houston that night. Utah owns the tiebreaker after beating the Lakers two out of three times this season.
“I guess I have to try and get in touch with Kevin McHale and tell him to handle it for me,” said Jefferson, who played for the Rockets’ coach when both were in Minnesota.
Derrick Williams had 18 points and six rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were missing center Nikola Pekovic because of a bruised left calf.
• LeBron James watched from the bench in street clothes as Norris Cole stripped Kyrie Irving of the ball with 2.2 seconds left to give the Miami Heat, resting most of its top players for the playoffs, a 96-95 victory in Cleveland.
Cole finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. But it was his only steal on Cleveland’s final possession that sealed it.
James was disappointed to not play in another homecoming game against his former team, but he appreciated coach Erik Spoelstra’s desire to get the NBA champions as healthy and refreshed as possible heading into the postseason. Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers joined James on the bench while Dwyane Wade, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem stayed back in Miami with minor injuries.
• Greg Monroe had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and the Detroit Pistons made the most of their home finale by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 109-101.
For both teams, the game was overshadowed by uncertainty off the court. Doug Collins is on his way out as Philadelphia’s coach, and Pistons owner Tom Gores remained noncommittal before the game on the status of team president Joe Dumars and coach Lawrence Frank.
A person familiar with the situation has told The Associated Press that Collins and the Sixers are trying to resolve their future relationship after the coach told them he would not return for a fourth season.
Dorell Wright had 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the 76ers. Former Husky Spencer Hawes had 13 points and nine rebounds.
• Ty Lawson scored 26 points, including a jumper in the lane with 9.3 seconds left, and Denver clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 112-111 win in Milwaukee.
• Carlos Boozer scored 22 points, Luol Deng had 18 and Chicago snapped a two-game losing streak with a 102-84 victory in Orlando.
The win, which was the Bulls’ fifth straight over the Magic, also keeps alive their hopes of catching of Atlanta for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. They conclude their regular-season schedule at home Wednesday against Washington. Chicago needs to win that game and for Atlanta to split or lose their final two.
• Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried won’t suit up again until sometime during the playoffs after an MRI revealed no fractures in his sprained left ankle.
Faried is averaging 11.5 points and a team-best 9.2 rebounds.