“We’re a big question mark,” the frustrated All-Star power forward said. “We have no real identity at this point. We show glimpses of being very, very good defensively. … But I don’t think you can stamp us as a defensive team or stamp us as a team with an identity right now.”
Garnett and his teammates will continue their quest to get back over the break-even point when they host the streaking Dallas Mavericks.
Minnesota, which went from Western Conference finalists to a non-playoff team last season, has benefited from a weak division so far in 2005-06. Despite their mediocre record, the Timberwolves are tied for first place in the Northwest with the Utah Jazz.
But first place doesn’t mean much to Garnett, especially after the Timberwolves opened December with a season-high five-game winning streak. Minnesota is just 2-8 since, including an embarrassing 97-70 loss Sunday to the Miami Heat.
Garnett matched a season low with 11 points, and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Timberwolves were outscored 56-26 in the second half, and held to their lowest point total of the season.
“We hit a wall,” Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey said. “We hit a freight train in the third quarter. Offensively we couldn’t execute, we couldn’t shoot and we couldn’t score. … They turned the heat up and we didn’t respond.”
Garnett has scored at least 20 points in seven straight games against the Mavericks at the Target Center.
Minnesota is 0-11 this season when being outshot from the field.
The Mavericks have won 13 of their last 16 games, including Tuesday’s 95-81 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Nowitzki established a franchise record in the fourth quarter with his 50th consecutive free throw, breaking the mark of 49 set by Steve Nash from Dec. 2-20, 2002.
Nowitzki is averaging 21.0 points in 26 career games against the Wolves
Guard Devin Harris left in the second quarter of the win over the Blazers with a sprained right thumb. He had X-rays and did not return.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 3): Mavericks - 2nd place, 1 GB, Southwest Division. Timberwolves - 1st place (tied), Northwest Division.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Mavericks - F Josh Howard, F Nowitzki, C Erick Dampier, G Jason Terry, G Marquis Daniels. Timberwolves - F Wally Szczerbiak, F Garnett, C Eddie Griffin, G Trenton Hassell, G Marko Jaric.
TEAM LEADERS: Mavericks - Nowitzki, 26.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg; Terry, 3.7 apg. Timberwolves - Garnett, 21.9 ppg and 10.7 rpg; Jaric, 5.5 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Mavericks, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 18; Mavericks, 102-95. At Dallas, Nowitzki had 19 points, seven rebounds and a season-high four blocks as Dallas capped a 4-1 homestand. Garnett had 20 points, 16 rebounds and five assists for the Timberwolves.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mavericks - 11-4 on the road; Timberwolves - 9-6 at home.