Wins have been hard to come by for the Al Jefferson and the Minnesota Timberwolves this season, but thanks to Johnny Flynn’s layup with three seconds remaining, the Wolves defeated the Utah Jazz on Monday for the second time in nine days.
This time around, the young Wolves edged Utah, 110-108, at home, where the Jazz have lost only three games all season.
"This is a hard place to win," Al told the Star-Tribune. "They're like two different teams on the road and at home."
No. 25 dominated in the paint with 23 points and 12 rebounds for his seventh consecutive double-double. The night, however, belonged to rookie point guard Johnny Flynn who tallied a career-high 28 points and dropped in the game winner.
"Jonny had a helluva of a game," Al added. "I am really proud of him. He didn't give up. We knew they were going to make that run. When they made it, we just kept going back at them. We just rolled Jonny back and he took us there."
Corey Brewer made his presence felt as well, tying a career-high with 22 points.
The Wolves (4-21) led by eight points with 10 minutes left and trailed by three with fewer than three minutes remaining before Flynn provided the night's final punctuation with a driving layup and one-handed bank shot past Utah’s Deron Williams.
"We didn't give up," Big Al explained to the Pioneer Press. "They kept making shots, but we kept coming back at them. That's what it's going to take to win in this league."
The deciding factor in a nearly dead-even game was Minnesota’s 48-36 rebounding advantage.
"To come in here in this environment, to get a win against a playoff team, it's a good win for us," Flynn said. "When they made their runs we didn't get down. We just kept going at them."
Opposing and 22-year head coach Jerry Sloan was impressed with Minnesota’s victory:
"They could have beaten a lot of teams tonight."
BIG AL GAINING STEAM
Entering Monday's game against the Jazz, Al was averaging 19.0 points, 12.7 rebounds and 51 percent shooting in his previous six games. Before that stretch, he averaged 15.6 points and 7.7 rebounds and shot 44.6 percent.
Asked whether it was due to improved conditioning and health or Kevin Love's return to the lineup, No. 25 responded in kind
"It's a little of both," he said. "I'm feeling better, getting my rhythm back. In the L.A. and Sacramento games, I was feeling like my old self. Kevin Love helps on offense because he opens the floor for me, especially now that he's hitting that three-point shot."
Head coach Kurt Rambis added that Al's grasp on the offense has helped him succeed:
"I think it has more to do with Al understanding what we want him to do, and him getting his leg in shape (after season-ending knee surgery last season), and us having more emphasis on getting the ball inside."
After Monday’s game, the Wolves have claimed half their wins against Utah.
Those two wins over Utah, along with a victory against the Denver Nuggets, have propelled the Wolves to three wins against 2009 Western Conference Playoff teams.
That mark is already superior to last year, in which Minnesota won two games against teams in the Western Conference Playoffs. Furthermore, Monday’s game was a victory in Utah, something the Lakers, Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs failed to accomplish as recently as last week.
The Timberwolves will look to build on their fourth win of the season when they return home on Thursday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST and all the action can be seen on Fox Sports Net Minnesota.
Flynn's bank shot ushers in Wolves' fourth victory (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, December 15, 2009)
Duel in the Deseret: Wolves and Flynn prevail at Utah, 110-108 (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, December 15, 2009)
Sessions now eligible for trade (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, December 15, 2009)
Rookie Jonny Flynn drives Timberwolves to road win over Jazz (St. Paul Pioneer Press, December 15, 2009)
Timberwolves VP David Kahn says progress not always measured in wins, losses (St. Paul Pioneer Press, December 15, 2009)
Flynn's layup gives Wolves fourth win when Williams' 3 off mark (AP, December 14, 2009)