By JON KRAWCZYNSKI
AP Basketball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS — Al Jefferson had 22 points and eight rebounds to help Utah keep its playoff hopes alive with a 96-80 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
Mo Williams had 15 points and seven assists for the Jazz, who needed a win to avoid being eliminated in the Western Conference playoff race.
The Jazz need to win at Memphis on Wednesday and for the Los Angeles Lakers to lose at home against Houston that night to get into the playoffs. They own the tiebreaker after beating the Lakers two out of three times this season.
Derrick Williams had 18 points and six rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were missing center Nikola Pekovic with a bruised left calf.
The Jazz entered the night clinging to the postseason picture, down 1½ games to the Lakers with two to play.
For a team that could have as many as nine expiring contracts this summer, the Jazz are desperately chasing one more playoff appearance. Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams and Randy Foye all could be looking for new teams when the season ends, with a bevy of young players waiting to assume larger roles next year.
They’ve won nine of their last 11 games since a four-game losing streak in the middle of last month threatened to bury them.
Utah didn’t play all that well early, but it was just good enough to stay on top of a Timberwolves team that is slogging to the finish of another long season. The Wolves shot just 33 percent in the first quarter, and without Pekovic patrolling the paint they didn’t grab an offensive rebound until late in the third quarter.
A 13-4 run by Minnesota cut Utah’s lead to three points late in the third quarter, but once again the Wolves had no answer for Jefferson. The former Wolf scored 40 against the Wolves in a 107-100 win on Friday night in Salt Lake City and continued to attack the team’s soft middle on Monday night. He scored six straight points after Minnesota’s run to give the Jazz some breathing room again, and they never looked back.
Foye scored 14 points for the Jazz.
The Timberwolves have one game left in what has been a miserable, injury-plagued season. They will enter this offseason as they have every one since 2004 — with a spot in the lottery coming in June and plenty of questions about the roster and who will be back to lead it. Owner Glen Taylor has been mum on president David Kahn’s future. Kahn has a team option on his contract for next season.
Coach Rick Adelman has two years left on his deal, but has considered stepping down to help his wife Mary Kay, who is being treated for seizures. Her condition caused him to miss 11 games earlier this season. She is due to meet with doctors again shortly after the season ends and Adelman is hoping her condition will continue to stabilize. Before the game, Adelman said he was going forward with the idea that he would be back next season and hoped to have a definitive answer in the next couple of weeks.
“I think what happens with Mary Kay or any of that, that certainly would turn things in a different direction,” Adelman said. “Right now I don’t see that (happening), but I’m going to wait and see until we talk to the doctors and see what direction they’ve decided we need to go at this point. Then we’ll move from there.”
NOTES: Wolves PG Ricky Rubio had a quiet night with six points on 2-for-9 shooting and four assists. … The Wolves finish the season with a game at San Antonio on Wednesday. … It was just the 13th win on the road for the Jazz this season. They’ve won three straight away from home.
HEAT 96, CAVS 95
CLEVELAND — LeBron James watched from the bench in street clothes as Norris Cole stripped Kyrie Irving of the ball with 2.2 seconds left to give the Miami Heat, resting most of their top players for the playoffs, a 96-95 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cole finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. But it was his only steal on Cleveland’s final possession that sealed it.
James was disappointed to not play in another homecoming game against his former team, but he appreciated coach Erik Spoelstra’s desire to get the NBA champions as healthy and refreshed as possible heading into the postseason. Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers joined James on the bench while Dwyane Wade, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem stayed back in Miami with minor injuries.
Rashard Lewis scored 19 points and James Jones had 14 for the Heat Light.
Irving and Tristan Thompson scored 16 apiece for the Cav.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant scored 29 points, Russell Westbrook had 21 before getting ejected in the final 3 minutes and the Oklahoma City Thunder clinched the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs by beating the Sacramento Kings.
Tyreke Evans, the Kings’ second-leading scorer, did not return after grabbing at his troublesome left knee following a drive to the basket late in the first quarter.
Durant hit a 3-pointer and Westbrook set up Serge Ibaka for a two-handed slam during a string of 11 straight Thunder points midway through the third quarter that stretched the lead to 75-51.
Isaiah Thomas led the Kings with 16 points, Travis Outlaw scored 15 and Cole Aldrich had a double-double for the second straight game by tying his career best with 12 points and setting a career high with 13 rebounds.
MILWAUKEE — Ty Lawson scored 26 points, including a jumper in the lane with 9.3 seconds left, and the Denver Nuggets clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Wilson Chandler added 21 points for the Nuggets, who can secure the No. 3 seed in the West with one more victory or two losses by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Milwaukee lost its season-high fifth game in a row despite Monta Ellis scoring 38 points, one shy of his season high.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Greg Monroe had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and the Detroit Pistons made the most of their home finale by beating the Philadelphia 76ers.
For both teams, the game was overshadowed by uncertainty off the court. Doug Collins is on his way out as Philadelphia’s coach, and Pistons owner Tom Gores remained noncommittal before the game on the status of team president Joe Dumars and coach Lawrence Frank.
Dorell Wright had 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the 76ers.
DALLAS — Keyon Dooling scored 13 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer before consecutive baskets by Ed Davis, and the Memphis Grizzlies rallied to keep alive their chance of hosting a first-round playoff series.
Jerryd Bayless had 19 points and the Grizzlies’ bench accounted for 64 points — all 35 in the decisive fourth quarter. Dooling, who signed April 3 as a free agent, had only 12 points combined his first five games.
Clean-shaven Dirk Nowitzki had 26 points and Vince Carter 22 for the Mavs, who had finally reached .500 for the first time since Dec. 12 with a win at New Orleans on Sunday night. They had vowed not to shave until reaching .500 — though it lasted only one night.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Carlos Boozer scored 22 points, Luol Deng added 18 and the Chicago Bulls snapped a two-game losing streak with a victory over the Orlando Magic.
The win, which was the Bulls’ fifth straight over the Magic, also keeps alive their hopes of catching of Atlanta for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. They conclude their regular-season schedule at home Wednesday against Washington. Chicago needs to win that game and for Atlanta to split or lose their final two.
Tobias Harris led Orlando with 20 points, followed by Nik Vucevic with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
The Magic finish just 12-29 at home, their fewest victories in Orlando since they were 11-30 during the 2003-04. Orlando wraps up its schedule Wednesday in Miami.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Gerald Henderson scored 27 points, Kemba Walker had 23 points and a career-high 13 assists and the Charlotte Bobcats defeated a New York Knicks team playing without Carmelo Anthony and a few others.
The victory was the second straight for the Bobcats, who pulled into a tie with Orlando for the worst record in the league.
The Knicks played only seven players, resting Anthony and others after wrapping up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, Amar’e Stoudemire, Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin also did not play.
Chris Copeland led the Knicks with 32 points, shooting 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
NEW YORK — Andray Blatche led a bevy of Brooklyn bench players with 20 points and 11 rebounds the Nets erased an early 17-point deficit to beat the Washington Wizards.
Kris Humphries, who was the team’s original starting power forward at the beginning of the season before falling out of the rotation, added 20 points and nine boards for Brooklyn. Mirza Teletovic added 14 points and MarShon Brooks chipped in 12 for the Nets, who will host Detroit on Wednesday night before they open up at home in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Nets reserve rookie Toko Shengelia, who has played 67 minutes all season, saw 25 minutes and finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
John Wall led Washington, which lost its fifth straight, with 18 points and 12 assists.