MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Al Jefferson rallied the Minnesota Timberwolves to their season-high fourth straight victory by scoring 16 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter for a 109-102 win Saturday night over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Jefferson was quiet all night against steadily improving big man Marc Gasol, until the Grizzlies stretched their lead to seven points with 8 minutes left. Jefferson found his touch, scoring 12 straight and giving the Timberwolves the final push they needed to avoid their first season sweep by the Grizzlies franchise.
Jefferson went 8 for 8 from the field in the fourth from all over the floor.
In 15 seasons playing Vancouver and Memphis, Minnesota has always won at least one game against them. The Wolves lost their first three against the Grizzlies this season.
Corey Brewer, who had 15 of his 17 points in the third quarter, helped spark the turnaround by finishing a fast break with a one-handed dunk from outside the lane to tie the game at 76.
Ramon Sessions had nine of his 19 points in the third, too, playing well enough that rookie starter Jonny Flynn sat on the bench for nearly the last 20 minutes of the game.
Kevin Love returned from a scary injury to knock down the sealing 3-pointer with less than 2 minutes left to give Minnesota a 104-99 lead. Love whacked his chest a couple of times on the way back to the other end, and Flynn leaped into his arms in a bear hug in celebration.
Jefferson was the star of the show, though, pump-faking newly minted All-Star Zach Randolph into the air and dribbling right for a baseline jumper that cut the Memphis lead to 95-94 at the 3:48 mark to end his run of 12 straight points.
Rudy Gay did his best to keep the Grizzlies in it with an array of pull-up jumpers, finishing with 27 points and eight rebounds. Randolph had 14 points and 13 rebounds.
After a 15-4 stretch from mid-December through late January, the Grizzlies dropped four of their previous five games including a self-described soft effort in defeat the night before at home to the Houston Rockets.
Still on the fringe of the Western Conference playoff chase, the Grizzlies gave their postseason candidacy a gut check with this matchup against the last-place Wolves after a late arrival from Memphis.
The Timberwolves had their own motivation: those 135 points they gave up to the Grizzlies the last time they met. That was by far one of the worst of Minnesota's 38 losses, so bad that coach Kurt Rambis cut his post-game comments to reporters to three sentences including the words "atrocious" and "embarrassed."
Said Love before the game: "I think that we definitely owe 'em one."
Jefferson, Love and starting center Ryan Hollins — Minnesota's three big men — were scoreless in the first quarter. The Wolves weren't shooting well early, except for Ryan Gomes and his 20 first-half points, including four 3-pointers, but their energy was better with the momentum of Friday's win at Dallas still fresh. They withstood enough charges by the division-leading Mavericks on the road well enough that they pointed to a maturity they didn't have earlier in the season as a reason for the win.
NOTES: Minnesota leads the series with the Vancouver-Memphis franchise, 40-18. ... Minnesota has only four wins against teams currently in the top eight spots in either conference, but all four of them are against the top four teams in the West. The Wolves are 4-5 against the Lakers, Nuggets, Jazz and Mavericks.