Salt Lake City, UT – Al Jefferson went on a personal eight- point run in the fourth quarter and helped the Utah Jazz clinch the final postseason spot in the Western Conference with a 100-88 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
The Jazz ended a seven-game losing streak to the Suns and eliminated Phoenix from postseason contention in the process. Utah is currently the eighth seed in the West and could jump the Nuggets with some help in the final two days of the regular season.
"It's a tremendous achievement for a group of guys that laid it out there every night," said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. "Whatever happened, good or bad, they stayed together. That's the most rewarding thing to see them be rewarded for all the hard work they put in."
The Suns missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since a three-year hiatus from 1986-88.
"It's tough," said Suns guard Steve Nash. "We found a way to put ourselves in this position. We started slow, no one gave us a chance when we were 12-19 and really didn't have any answers. It could have went the other way."
Jefferson finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds, Paul Millsap added 26 and 15 and Derrick Favors also recorded a double-double with 13 and 11 to go with five blocks for Utah, which has gone 7-3 in its last 10 games and closes out the regular season at home against the Trail Blazers on Thursday.
Nash, in perhaps his final season in Phoenix with free agency looming in the offseason, totaled 14 points and 11 assists in the loss.
Jared Dudley chipped in 15 points for the Suns, as did Michael Redd, whose jumper less than two minutes into the fourth quarter gave the visitors their first lead of the second half, 76-74.
It turned out to be Phoenix's last lead, as Utah scored 19 of the next 23 points to take control. Jefferson, who had not reached the postseason since his 2004-05 rookie campaign, netted the final eight during the run, as his jumper provided an insurmountable 93-80 cushion with 2:17 remaining.
Millsap had 11 points in the first quarter, and the Jazz scored the final six of the frame to take a 25-19 lead.
Phoenix rattled off the first eight points of the second, but Utah responded with an 8-0 run of its own and continued to play front-runner until the early moments of the fourth. The Jazz held a 49-42 lead at the break and a 73-68 cushion heading to the fourth.
Utah, which missed the postseason last season, last made the playoffs without Jerry Sloan on the sideline in 1988-89...Phoenix, which went 14-19 on the road, finishes its season against San Antonio on Wednesday...Suns forward/center Channing Frye sat out with an injured right shoulder...Gordon Hayward totaled 11 points and eight assists for the Jazz, who got 14 points from Devin Harris.