Minneapolis • Al Jefferson's buzzer-beating tip-in Wednesday against Toronto had several Jazz players walking off the court with their hands held high and their heads higher.
The unlikely game-winner provided much-needed momentum for Utah, and it presented coach Tyrone Corbin with an opportunity to send a message to his up-and-down team: Don't give up.
The Jazz entered Thursday night in 10th place in the Western Conference, a half-game behind ninth-place Phoenix and 11/2 behind eighth-place Memphis. But Jefferson's push gave Utah a major emotional lift, which allowed Corbin to temporarily see the bright side of NBA life. The Jazz are just 31/2 games behind fifth-place Denver with 17 contests to go.
Utah has not won two consecutive games since Jan. 12-14. However, if the Jazz can ride a late-season wave buoyed by the likely return of veteran center Mehmet Okur and the improved health of starters Paul Millsap and Andrei Kirilenko anything is possible.
"That's what we're trying to preach to the guys every game," said Corbin, prior to practice Thursday. "Look: Don't quit on yourselves, don't quit on the team, don't quit on the situation. We get a little run going, and we're right back in it. … Just be ready to go, because we're not quitting on the situation."
After having five players in dress clothes Wednesday during a come-from-behind road win against the Raptors, Utah finally received some good medical news Thursday.
Okur (back) is out Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. But he has increased his rehabilitation activity during recent days and is making progress, while fellow reserve center Francisco Elson (knee) has also shown improvement.
"It's feeling good," said Elson, who is doubtful versus the Timberwolves. "I just got treatment and I'm going to try to run [during practice]."
Guard Ronnie Price (toe) is out, while Millsap (knee) and Kirilenko (back) are game-time decisions. But even Millsap was feeling better, and he plans to re-evaluate his injury before tipoff.
"Try to continue to rehab it and see what happens [Friday]," Millsap said.
Corbin is fond of the word "tremendous," and it was the primary one that came out of his mouth when asked about glass cleaner Kevin Love. The Minnesota forward leads the league in average rebounds (15.8) and has recorded 52 consecutive double-doubles in scoring and boards.
"He deserves … all the recognition he's getting," said Corbin, who played in the NBA 16 years as a forward.