For a brief while, at least, the Jazz had to keep the champagne corked, put the party favors away and avoid whatever temptation there may have been to dance with the stars.

That is because even though they went into their game against Memphis on Saturday night thinking that with a victory they would clinch their first playoff appearance since 2003 — and the Jazz did win, handily beating the NBA's cellar-dwelling Grizzlies 118-108 — it really wasn't quite so.

Had Utah won Friday night in Los Angeles — and it did not, getting whooped by the Clippers — it indeed would have clinched.

By extension, the Jazz figured a win Saturday would seal the deal as well.

Even the league's own Web site, nba.com, immediately trumpeted Utah's victory with a headline that read "Jazz Wrap Up Playoff Berth."

Not so fast, googlebreath.

As it happens — the Jazz learned only after Saturday's game — the Clippers, who beat Washington 111-105 later in the evening, remain mathematically capable of catching Utah.

So, too, does Golden State, though a loss by the Warriors to the Los Angeles Lakers today would give the Jazz their prized (and seemingly inevitable, in any event) postseason berth.

In any event, there was much for Utah to celebrate on Saturday.

"It feels good," center Mehmet Okur said after the victory, "but it's not over with.

"We want to finish the season with the fourth spot (in the West), so we've got to play harder than the last three games."

The now 45-24 Jazz — who had come into the night having lost five of their last six outings, including an utterly embarrassing effort in a 104-72 loss to the Clippers that amounted to their worst loss of the season — bounced back floatingly against the Grizzlies.

But it happened only after much disarray in L.A.

"That happens a lot in this league, and it's something that people that have never played this game have a hard time understanding," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said of the disparity between the two evenings. "We didn't have a total team effort (Friday) night. I thought we had total team effort (Saturday night) to change things around.

"The guys played hard," Sloan added, "and they pretty much focused on what they were trying to do."

Utah dished 38 assists — one shy of its season high — en route to its fifth-straight win at EnergySolutions Arena, including 13 delivered by point guard Deron Williams.

Williams added 21 points for his 24th double-double of the season, and power forward Carlos Boozer had a game-high 28 points and game-high 15 rebounds for his team-leading 42nd double-double this season.

The Jazz also got 24 points off the bench that included 13-of-14 shooting from the free-throw line from Matt Harpring; a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double from rookie Paul Millsap (his sixth of the season) and 12 points, four assists, four blocks and two steals from an especially active Andrei Kirilenko.

Utah — which avoided falling into a record tie with Houston, its closest Western Conference pursuer — was up by as many as 24 late in the first half, led 67-45 at halftime (just five points shy of its game total against the Clippers) and did not trail by fewer than 14 until the final 44.5 seconds.

A much-needed win indeed.

"We know that Houston is right there," point guard Dee Brown said, "and homecourt advantage (in a potential 4-5 seed series between the Jazz and Rockets) is a big thing in the playoffs."

It is, and yet the Jazz cannot even celebrate being there.

Not quite yet.

They've known for some time they are bound to be, but still, for now, can't say they've got it. And 'it' — a playoff berth — truly is, make no mistake, a big deal to them.

"That," Sloan said, "is a major accomplishment."


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com