SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Jazz helped coach Jerry Sloan celebrate his 65th birthday with a division title.
After suffering through the only three lottery seasons in his 19 years with Utah, Sloan saw his team clinch the Northwest Division championship Wednesday night.
"Being able to win the division is kind of a special thing. Sometimes you take it for granted but to me it's quite an accomplishment.
Hopefully, we don't stop there," said Sloan, who is the longest tenured coach in any of the four major sports.
Coupled with Denver's 100-97 loss to Seattle on Wednesday, the Jazz claimed their first division championship since they won their sixth division title in the 1999-2000 season. Behind Karl Malone and John Stockton, Utah finished 55-27 in the Midwest Division that year.
His players acknowledge the accomplishment but are hungry for more.
"It's the first time this group has done it and the first time for this organization in a few years, so we're excited about that. But we have bigger fish to fry," Boozer said.
Deron Williams, who had 22 points and 14 assists, said, "We'll get a banner up and it's good for us and the organization, but there's a bigger picture. Once we get in the playoffs, we want to win a league championship. That's the ultimate goal."
Okur, who rebounded from a stretch of four games where he averaged only eights points, made a 3-pointer with 2:58 remaining and then was fouled while attempting another with 33.8 seconds left.
He has earned a reputation for late-game heroics this season and delivered with two of the three free throws for a 101-95 lead.
Williams and Derek Fisher combined to make 7-of-8 free throws in the last 25 seconds to secure the victory, which was Utah's seventh straight at home.
"We fought, we fought. It came down to last four minutes of execution," Garnett said.
The Timberwolves led by as many as six in the third quarter, but Okur sparked a 7-0 run with a 3-pointer late in the period. The Jazz led 74-70 and did not trail the rest of the way.
Despite playing the night after blowing the largest lead in franchise history and looking sluggish at times, the Timberwolves stayed within single digits the entire game but could not stop Boozer and Okur down the stretch.
"We bounced back from a hard situation last night. I thought the our guys laid their hearts on the line and played with effort," Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said.
On Tuesday, Minnesota led by 25 in the second half but lost to Seattle 114-106 at home.
Rookies Randy Foye scored 17 points and Craig Smith continued his best stretch of the season with 16 points. Smith has scored 10 or more points in seven of his last nine games after reaching double figures just twice in the prior 36 games. But Smith made a rookie mistake, fouling Okur behind the 3-point line with 33.8 seconds left.
"We had our chances. We kind of let it slip away tonight. Utah is a very good team so you can't slack off at all," Davis said.
Watching the Jazz play, Wittman said, "You get a better idea of what you are missing, and what you've got to become. We've got to take a serious look at what we have to do to get where Utah is."
Andrei Kirilenko had 13 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and three steals for the Jazz, who are tied for the second-best home record in the league at 29-7.
"Andrei was alive. He blocked shots, got steals and he was able to shoot the ball. He kept us in the game in the first half with his defense," Sloan said.
Matt Harpring, Utah's fourth-leading scorer, missed the game due to a stomach virus. Gordan Giricek missed his sixth straight contest with bruised ribs but rookie Ronnie Brewer made two critical fourth-quarter baskets in their absence.
Regarding the division title, Boozer said, "It's great but it's just one step in many steps we want to take this year." The Jazz, who ended their three-game homestand undefeated, now head out for a four-game road trip.
|Carlos Boozer and the Jazz stuff Kevin Garnett and the T-Wolves to clinch the Northwest Division. (AP)|
|Utah (47-24) «||27||23||24||34||108|
|MIN:K. Garnett 25 Pts
MIN:K. Garnett 8 Reb
MIN:R. Davis 8 Ast
|UTA:C. Boozer 25 Pts
UTA:M. Okur 12 Reb
UTA:D. Williams 14 Ast
|Players of the Game|
|R. Davis, SG||41||8-14||0-0||4||8||3||18|
|K. Garnett, PF||39||9-16||6-6||8||1||3||25|
|M. Blount, C||36||6-12||0-0||7||2||3||12|
|T. Hassell, SF||19||0-1||0-0||1||1||0||0|
|M. James, PG||10||2-6||0-0||3||0||4||6|
|R. Foye, PG||38||6-16||5-6||4||4||2||17|
|M. Jaric, PG||30||2-7||1-2||4||4||4||7|
|C. Smith, PF||22||6-10||4-4||4||0||6||16|
|R. McCants, SG||7||0-1||1-2||1||0||2||1|
|T. Hudson, PG||Did Not Play|
|M. Madsen, C||Did Not Play|
|B. Wright, SG||Did Not Play|
|J. Reed, SF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|A. Kirilenko, SF||40||6-9||1-1||8||1||0||13|
|D. Williams, PG||39||5-9||11-14||1||14||4||22|
|C. Boozer, PF||39||11-21||3-5||11||3||2||25|
|M. Okur, C||38||6-14||9-10||12||1||2||23|
|D. Fisher, PG||29||3-8||4-4||1||0||4||11|
|R. Brewer, SG||14||2-3||0-0||1||1||1||4|
|D. Brown, PG||13||2-4||0-0||0||2||3||4|
|P. Millsap, PF||13||1-3||0-0||2||1||1||2|
|J. Collins, C||10||2-3||0-0||3||1||1||4|
|C. Miles, SF||6||0-1||0-0||0||0||3||0|
|M. Harpring, SF||Did Not Play|
|G. Giricek, SG||Did Not Play|
|R. Araujo, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|