MINNEAPOLIS — During his three years in Minnesota, Timberwolves fans saw everything Al Jefferson showed in a Utah Jazz uniform on Wednesday night. The endless pump fakes, the odd-angle jumpers, the tenacity on the boards.
Everything except the big fella running a coast-to-coast break and igniting what proved to be a game-deciding run.
Jefferson had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Paul Millsap scored 21 points to power the Utah Jazz to a 97-93 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
“He’s cat-quick now,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said with a smile. “He’s always saying he’s a (small forward). That was a good look.”
Jefferson helped the Jazz overcome a sluggish start against his former team to pick up a rare road win against a Western Conference opponent. Utah now has four wins in 17 road games in the West.
Big Al spent three seasons in Minnesota after being traded from Boston as part of a package for Kevin Garnett, and he endeared himself to the long-suffering fan base here with his creative low post game. He was traded to Utah in 2010, partly so the Wolves could make room for Kevin Love in the frontcourt. Love is out with a right hand that is broken for the second time this season, and Jefferson had his way with the rest of the Wolves down low.
But his highlight came in the third quarter when he ripped the ball away from Luke Ridnour and took it the length of the court for a layup to give the Jazz a 60-59 lead in the third quarter.
“Yeah, that was kinda cool,” Jefferson said with a chuckle.
That seemed to jumpstart the Jazz, who went on a 16-6 run over the next six minutes. Enes Kanter scored six points early in the fourth quarter and Utah led 81-67 midway through the final period.
As they have done so many times this season, the Wolves went on a late run, ripping off nine straight points to pull within 90-86 with 50 seconds to go. Millsap fouled Williams on a 3-pointer 30 seconds later, and he hit all three shots to make it 93-91.
But another former Timberwolves player, Randy Foye, hit four free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
“It’s a lesson we should have learned by this point,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said about another slow start.
Derrick Williams had 24 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, and Ricky Rubio had 18 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for the Timberwolves, who shot a season-low 34 percent.
Nikola Pekovic had 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Luke Ridnour scored 18 points for Minnesota, which lost for the 16th time in 19 games.
The Jazz trailed 17-10 after a lifeless first quarter.