That’s the career record of old friend Al Jefferson against the Boston Celtics since his former team dealt him as its top trade chip in a deal for Kevin Garnett in the summer of 2007. 11 games played over nearly six full seasons. 11 losses. Many came with a miserable Timberwolves team that Jefferson had little help on. However, Jefferson arrived in Utah three years ago and somehow has still failed to get over the hump against the team that drafted him in 2004.
He’s been close plenty of times. In fact, he nearly won his first matchup against the C’s back in 2007, as the Wolves almost stole a win at the TD Garden behind the strong play of Sebastian Telfair before the C’s closed out the contest with a 6-0 run to escape with a 87-86 win.
One month later, Jefferson lost 88-86 in Garnett’s return to the Target Center as a visitor. Garnett sat out the night due to injury with Brian Scalabrine starting in his place. Jefferson played well with 18 points and nine rebounds, but the C’s still managed to battle their way to a 88-86 victory.
There have been monster performances as well from Big Al against his former mates. Back in February 2009, Jefferson posted 34 points on 15-of-21 shooting against a KG-less C’s squad again, abusing Glen Davis in the post for the better part of 48 minutes. It didn’t matter again, as C’s won fairly easily 109-101.
There have been duds, for the former first round pick, too. Back in 2010 with a healthy KG in the lineup, Jefferson struggled to a 1-for-11 performance in his first game as a member of the Jazz, as the hosts routed their Western Conference counterparts, a routine occurrence for a Jazz team that has seemingly always struggled when coming to Boston since KG came to town. Somehow, I feel like those two things are related.
There have been some improved Jazz teams though, especially in the past couple years, but they still haven’t been able to find a way to give Al his first big win against the team that traded him away six years ago. In fact, six of Jefferson’s 11 losses to the Celtics have come by five or fewer points. Multiple times, Jefferson and company had a chance to win the game in the closing minutes, but couldn’t get the job done.
You can tell Jefferson has wanted it bad against Boston, as he’s averaged 35 minutes in those games against the C’s, the highest total against an opponent out of all the teams in the league. He’s brought stellar play in those 11 games more often than not, averaging 18.8 points and 9.5 rebounds on 47% shooting from the field. Despite his team’s woes, Jefferson is not overly bitter.
“It’s always good coming back here,” Jefferson said after another loss in Boston last year. “It’d be nice to get a win. I haven’t beaten them since I left. But it’s always good to come back. They always play their best. We put ourselves in a position to win. That’s all we can ask for.”
That’s why Jefferson is still loved here in Boston by most fans. He’s a standup guy that we watched grow up and develop into one of the best power forwards in the league. He’s due another big contract this offseason and he’s earned it.
For now though, he still has to wait patiently for a shot at redemption against the team that spent him packing. Unfortunately for Al, he’s probably going to have to wait until Garnett retires, since that guy just won’t let the man he was traded for beat him. That’s why people still love Al, but they’ll always love KG more.