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JAZZ WIN GAME, BUT PLAYOFFS A MYSTERY

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With the first round of the playoffs less than a week away the Jazz still don't have the slightest idea who or where they'll be playing.

Not much was settled Friday night as the Jazz scored the last eight points of the game to edge the pesky Minnesota Timberwolves 97-89 at the Salt Palace. Because in Denver, San Antonio edged the Nuggets by four to stay in a tie for the Midwest Division lead and in Phoenix, the Suns cruised past Golden State.So it all comes down to this: The Jazz need a win over Houston Sunday and a San Antonio loss to clinch the division crown and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. A Jazz win plus a San Antonio win puts the Jazz against Phoenix with a Jazz homecourt advantage.

The worst possible scenario would be a Jazz loss and a Phoenix win over the Spurs. That would leave the Jazz third in a three-way tie with the Suns and Spurs and put them on the road at Phoenix for the playoffs.

Jerry Sloan's reaction to all this?

"I'm not worried about the Spurs or anyone else - I have to be concerned about this team," he said. "I have been all year long. If you watch the other teams, you fail to concentrate on your own team."

Friday's contest was a continuation of the past week, which had seen the Jazz drop three of four games, their lone win coming over these same Timberwolves Sunday in Minnesota.

The Jazz were sluggish in the early going, falling behind 25-20 after one quarter and 47-44 at the half. At least they scored more than the 33 they had posted in the back-to-back losses at Dallas and San Antonio.

When the Jazz fell behind 62-55 midway through the second quarters, the sellout crowd's muffled oohs had turned to audible boos. Tod Murphy, a former Cal-Irvine player who played in Spain last year was in the midst of a career night, hitting three straight 3-pointers over Karl Malone from the top of the key in a three-minute span, en route to a 21-point game.

"Hey I knew we'd struggle," said Sloan. "We had played five games in seven days against some tough teams. They have good athletes and are able to spread it out on us."

When Murphy cooled off, the Wolves brought out Donald Royal, who hadn't even played in the last four games. He scored seven straight to keep the Wolves on top through the end of the third quarter, 74-70.

Royal made the first three Minnesota points of the third quarter, before the Wolves suddenly went scoreless for more than four minutes as the Jazz reeled off 11 straight points. Sloan and the Jazz players credited defense as the difference during that span.

"That's what got us back in the game - our defense," said Darrell Griffith, who had 10 points including the go-ahead bucket.

"The main thing was solid defense down the stretch," said Malone, who scored 36 points and was all over Murphy in the final quarter in which he held him scoreless.

Just when it seemed the Jazz had finally put the game away at 89-81, Minnesota ran off eight straight points as Utah committed three turnovers in row. With just over two minutes left it was all tied again at 89.

Then Bobby Hansen drove up the middle for a score and Malone hit a turnaround for a 93-89 lead with a minute left. After Murphy missed a pair of foul shots and Pooh Richardson missed a jumper, the Jazz seemed safe when Mike Brown got fouled with 15 seconds left.

But wait. Between Brown's foul shots, Hansen got into a heated discussion with Minnesota's Coach Bill Mussleman and all of a sudden was hit with a technical by Jess Kersey after he apparently made a gesture toward the coach.

Luckily for the Jazz and Hansen, Tony Campbell, who had a team-high 23 points, missed the T and the Jazz hung on. Sloan swore at Hansen and pulled him from the game after the untimely technical.

When asked about the T later, Hansen smiled and aid, "Bill said I couldn't putt. I don't like it when a guy gets on my golf game. Then Jess Kersey got involved."

Musselman, who had gotten into it with owner Larry Miller in an earlier game, discussed Malone and his key plays down the stretch, but then said, "That's all I have to say."

"It would have been nice to win against a quality team like this," said Murphy. "But in four out of five games we took them right to the wire. We're still young and have a long ways to go."

GAME NOTES: John Stockton had a quiet 17 points and 18 assists. He now needs 6 in the finale to break his single-season record NBA assists record . . . Larry Miller was seated with a pair of people associated with the Japanese bank, which is working with him on the loan for the new arena, but neither Miller nor his seatmates wanted to discuss the deal.