SALT LAKE CITY -- If the Jazz's offense was feeling a little down-and-out going into Friday's game with Minnesota, Al Jefferson made everything better.
Big Al isn't a doctor, mind you, but on this occasion he prescribed the perfect panacea: points in the paint.
Jefferson tied his career high with 40 points and teammate Randy Foye hit five 3-pointers to help the Jazz earn a 107-100 victory in their last regular-season game at EnergySolutions Arena.
While not literally the case, the game was a veritable must-win. Now with just two games remaining, the Jazz simply can't afford to slip up, not if they want to stay close to the Lakers - who held on to beat Golden State on Friday - in the hunt for the Western Conference's final playoff spot.
So, enter Big Al.
"I felt like it started with me," Jefferson said.
In addition to Jefferson's 40, the Jazz (42-38) got 16 apiece from Foye and starting point guard Mo Williams.
Forward Paul Millsap added 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting.
Minnesota (29-50) got 23 off the bench from feisty backup point guard Jose Barea. Starter Ricky Rubio added 13 points.
But as Jefferson said, it all began with him. He went 4-for-6 from the field in the first quarter and scored nine points. That forged a symbiotic relationship with Foye, who loosed Minnesota's defense with a two early 3-pointers.
"No disrespect to (the T-Wolves), I felt like I kind of had an advantage on the block because they were playing one-on-one," Jefferson said. "Then I figured if I just kept doing my job on the block, they'd start a double team and I'd get my teammates open shots."
Foye saw it that way, too.
"It's just something we've been doing the whole year together, just picking teams apart," he said. "If we can do that, we're in pretty good shape."
Well sure, the Jazz were in pretty good shape once the final buzzer sounded, but they weren't really comfortable until the closing minute.
Jefferson's bucket as the shot clock expired gave them a 101-98 lead with 39 seconds left and Williams iced the game by hitting six free throws in the final 19 seconds.
Afterward, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin admitted Jefferson was the cornerstone to the entire effort.
"He carried us," he said.
Utah led by as many as nine in the first quarter but couldn't maintain the lead as the Timberwolves rallied in the second and third quarters.
Of course there was a playoff atmosphere around the arena, but there was more nervousness than excitement until Jefferson scored with 2:16 left, cutting Minnesota's lead to 79-75.
Williams hit a pull-up jumper at the 1:48 mark to make it a two-point game. The T-Wolves came back to score again 13 seconds later, but Foye hit a technical foul shot after an illegal defense call and Jefferson scored on back-to-back possessions to put the Jazz ahead 82-81 at the end of the third.
Big Al scored 19 points during the quarter, a season high for any Jazz player in a single quarter.
In keeping with the game's inside-outside theme, Foye opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back 3s and Jefferson followed with a couple of scores. Then it was back to Foye, who hit another 3 to put the Jazz ahead 95-90.
Barea threatened to ruin Utah's celebration when his chippy play led to a flagrant foul Jazzman Derrick Favors.
Minnesota briefly took a 98-97 lead with 3:52 left but the Jazz got a score from Jefferson with 3:36 left.
His running floater in the lane with 39 seconds left forced the T-Wolves to start fouling and Williams came through with six straight free throws.