SALT LAKE CITY -- Yippee!
Mo Williams must like riding roller coasters because earlier in the week the Jazz point guard admitted the final stretch of the NBA's regular season has been a real thrill.
"It's fun," Williams said following Utah's 90-80 loss to Oklahoma City. "You're playing for something every night. That's the fun part about it."
Going into tonight's home game with Minnesota, the Jazz are out of the Western Conference playoff picture. When the week began, they were on the inside.
The Jazz (41-38) have been riding the ups and downs throughout the second half of the season, although the twists and turns have been even more exciting over the past two weeks.
Its seems one day they're in the playoff picture and the next they're out. Then they're back in again; then they're out.
As it stands now, Utah is the No. 9 team in the West, trailing the Los Angeles Lakers by a game with three left to play.
The Jazz host the Timberwolves (29-49) tonight, with another game scheduled for Monday in Minneapolis.
They'll finish the season April 17 at Memphis, home of the playoff-bound Grizzlies.
As for the Lakers, they'll finish the regular season with three home games, all against playoff teams: Golden State tonight; San Antonio on Sunday and Houston on April 17.
To Williams, these meaningful games are fun. However, they're filled with heart-pounding pressure.
"At the same time, (if) you don't win, you lose ground," he said. "It's getting to the end. We need these next three."
Asked if he likes Utah's position going into the final three games, Williams offered deadpan answer.
"I'd like to be in first place," he said. "But we've still got a shot. We're not sitting here saying the season is over. We're still there."
In a world where professional athletes are often criticized for having an "it's a business" mentality, Williams and his teammates are relishing the competition for the final playoff spot.
"That's the plan, to win out," Gordon Hayward said Tuesday. "That may be what we have to do.
"We've got to take it one game at a time though. Minnesota's not going to just lay down for us."
The Jazz played without three key reserves on Tuesday. Marvin Williams (flu), Alec Burks (sprained ankle) and Enes Kanter (dislocated shoulder) each missed the game.
After a day off, Williams and Burks are expected to be ready for tonight's game.
Kanter had surgery on Wednesday and will miss the rest of the season.
Although the Jazz no longer control their own playoff destiny - they must win and hope the Lakers lose at least once - coach Tyrone Corbin said they're only to control what they can and leave the rest to good fortune.
"We can take care of our business," he said. "From there, whatever happens happens. We can control any of that but we can control how we play."
So, in other words, they're having fun?
"As a competitor, you've got to enjoy it," Corbin said. "This is what competing is all about. You have a chance in it, you go out and play as hard as you can and every game and every minute is important to whether you win or lose a game."