for this game

Jefferson carries Timberwolves past Jazz

Mar 31, 2008 - 2:10 AM By James Beilby PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Al Jefferson scored 22 points and Rashad McCants provided a spark off the bench to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 110-103 victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday afternoon.

Ryan Gomes scored 17 points and rookie Corey Brewer chipped in 16 and seven rebounds for the Timberwolves, who shot a blistering 53 percent (42-of-79) from the field.

It was Minnesota's second straight home win over Utah, which dropped an 11-point loss here on February 26.

"It was the same thing," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "They came out strong, and we couldn't stop them. It seemed like whatever ways they wanted to go they could get to the basket."

"It seemed like they wanted the game more than us," said Utah guard Deron Williams, who had 15 points and 13 assists. "It's a game that I thought we would have come out better for, considering the circumstances and what we're fighting for right now - we're just a couple games back of first place (in the West)."

With the loss, the Jazz (48-26) are now just 2 1/2 games ahead of the Denver Nuggets (45-28) for first place in the Northwest Division with eight games remaining on the schedule.

They also are just three games behind the San Antonio Spurs (51-23) for the top spot in the crowded Western Conference.

"Utah is definitely one of the top teams in the league right now and they're fighting desperately for a playoff spot," Minnesota guard Marko Jaric said. "We knew we had to be mentally prepared because it was going to be a tough game. They played really physical, but we responded and won the game."

While Utah built a six-point lead at 7:58 in the third quarter, Minnesota slowly gained the lead on a last-second layup by Jaric to forge a 76-74 going into the final quarter.

McCants completed a three-point play to give Minnesota its largest lead of the game at 85-78 with 9:53 remaining. But Paul Millsap's layup cut Utah's deficit to 101-98 at the 1:24 mark.

Kirk Snyder, who was drafted by Utah, secured a loose ball and converted a three-point play to push the lead to five with 44 seconds left and McCants nailed an 18-footer to seal the victory.

"It shows the maturity of the team," McCants said. "We've been up, tied, and lost leads. It's all about doing what we have to do and making plays. That's what we did down the stretch."

Carlos Boozer poured in 25 points and Ronnie Brewer added 20 for Utah, which played without forward Andrei Kirilenko (calf) center Mehmet Okur (flu) due to various injuries.

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