MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — No deficit is too big for the Utah Jazz to overcome and no lead is too great for the Minnesota Timberwolves to squander.
That much has been clear all season, especially Wednesday night.
Al Jefferson had 23 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks against his former team and Jerry Sloan moved into sole possession of third place on the career victories list in the Jazz’s 112-107 victory over the Timberwolves.
Jefferson scored 21 points in the second half and Deron Williams added 25 points, seven assists and seven rebounds for the Jazz, who came back from 12 points down at the start of the fourth quarter.
“We make it hard for ourselves,” Jefferson said. “Hey, that shows that we don’t give up and that shows that we can get it from somewhere, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Sloan picked up victory No. 1,211 to break a tie with Pat Riley for third on the career list. Only Don Nelson (1,335) and Lenny Wilkens (1,332) have more victories in NBA history.
“I’m more proud of the win. I’m not in to numbers and stuff like that,” Sloan said. “I never have been. I’ve got a great organization to work for that’s given me an opportunity to stay there for a long time. I’m very thankful for that and the coaches that I have with me. It’s not about me, it’s more about what we try to do as a staff.”
Kevin Love had 25 points and 19 rebounds and Michael Beasley added 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolves. They have lost seven straight games and 15 of their last 17 to take their usual place in the Northwest Division cellar.
“It’s a repeated story for us,” Wolves coach Kurt Rambis said. “We’re close, but we just can’t do the right things late in close ball games.”
Paul Millsap had 23 points and 11 rebounds and converted two three-point plays in the final 2 minutes to help the Jazz rally. His free throw with 33.5 seconds left gave Utah its first lead since 6-5 in the first quarter and the Jazz notched their 10th comeback win from a double-digit deficit.
The Wolves, meanwhile, lost after holding a double-digit lead for the seventh time this season.
The Jazz trailed by 15 late in the third quarter, which is exactly where they like to be these days.
Andrei Kirilenko scored six straight points for the Jazz to cut Minnesota’s lead to 87-79 early in the fourth. Earl Watson’s driving layup cut Minnesota’s lead to three points with under 6 minutes to play, and the young Timberwolves started to tense up again in a tight spot.
Webster, who didn’t play in a game until last week because of back surgery, hit a big 3-pointer, drew two fouls on jump shots and drew a charge on Jefferson as Minnesota padded lead to 101-94 with 3 minutes to play.
But Williams rushed back the other way for a three-point play and the Jazz made 15 of 20 shots in the fourth to squeak out the win.
Webster, who scored 16 points, committed a pair of costly turnovers and also had a silly foul on Millsap to give him an and-one situation as the Wolves lost the handle down the stretch.
“I think I let my teammates down with the turnovers that I had,” Webster said. “Just careless turnovers. Dumb fouls. I definitely take responsibility for that, being a veteran.”
Jefferson played his first game against the Timberwolves since being traded to Utah last summer. He spent the previous three seasons in Minnesota, becoming a fan favorite thanks to an endless array of pump fakes and low post moves. He has found what he wanted in Utah, playing on the division-leading Jazz, while the Wolves (6-24) continue to wallow in yet another rebuilding season.
“I’ll always support the Timberwolves,” Jefferson said. “I feel bad and know exactly what they’re going through. Believe it or not I think they’re heading in the right direction. They’ve got a great group of guys here and a lot of talent.”
NOTES: Timberwolves PG Sebastian Telfair was inactive with plantar fasciitis in his right foot and C Nikola Pekovic was out with a sprained left ankle. … Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward converted a three-point play on a dunk with 13 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
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