Garnett had 12 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists as the Timberwolves staged their largest comeback of the season, rallying from a 16-point deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers, 88-85.
Wally Szczerbiak added 18 points and Rasho Nesterovic 14 and 11 rebounds for Minnestoa, which trailed, 63-47, with 4:18 remaining in the third quarter and by nine entering the fourth quarter.
The Clippers’ lead was 78-71 after Lamar Odom hit a fadeaway jumper with 5:14 left. But the Timberwolves embarked on a 10-0 run to take the lead for good. Anthony Peeler scored the final eight points of the burst, giving his team a 79-78 lead on the second of two back-to-back 3-pointers with 3 1/2 minutes remaining.
“I love playing with AP,” Szczerbiak said of Peeler. “When we’re running and pushing the ball up the floor, he’s the first guy I look for. We’re similar players—both outside scorers that can get hot.”
“(It was) one of those games you have to gut out,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. “We had a huge fourth quarter and won. … Initially, the Clippers were able to score a lot because we couldn’t shoot. Then we were able to make shots and get back on defense.”
Los Angles closed within one point on three occasions down the stretch, including a layup by Marko Jaric that made it 86-85 wih 13 seconds left. But Szczerbiak nailed two free throws a second later and Eric Piatkowski missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“I like the fact that we’re playing well and competing, but I dislike the fact that we don’t have anything to show for it,” Clippers coach Alvin Gentry said. “We’re not in the position where we can lose games like this. We’re chasing everyone.”
Elton Brand, who was matched up with Garnett, contributed 20 points and 12 rebounds and Jaric added 19 points for the Clippers, who fell to 1-2 on a five-game road trip.
“These type of games, we’ve got to win,” said Clippers guard Quentin Richardson, who scored 15 points off the bench. “Down the stretch, when they start making threes and making shots, we’ve got to settle down and stay composed. We had the lead the whole game. We have to stay composed and run our offense, and do the things that got us the lead.”
The Clippers, who shot 45 percent (32-of-71) and limited the Timberwolves to 37 percent (30-of-81), performed much better against Minnesota than they did at home nine days ago, when they were manhandled, 95-64.
“They put it to us last week,” Brand said. “This could’ve been a nice statement game for us, but we let it slip away.”
Los Angeles, which committed 25 turnovers that Minnesota converted into 20 points, played without starting point guard Andre Miller, who was not with the team for a personal matter.
“I thought we played well enough to win the game, but we couldn’t seem to get it under control,” Gentry said. “Obviously we missed Andre in situations like that, but you’re just not going to win with 25 turnovers.”
The Timberwolves led, 25-20, entering the second quarter but the Clippers outscored them by 27-14 in the second 12 minutes. Los Angeles limited Minnesota to an abysmal 15 percent from the field (3-of-20) in the second quarter to take a 47-39 lead at the break.
“Nothing went right in the first half,” Szczerbiak said. “In the second half we loosened up our neckties a little bit. We relied on KG and fed off his intensity and aggressiveness.”
“I thought we did as good a job as we could on KG,” Gentry said. “We limited his touches as much as we could, but that shows how good he really is.”