Iverson scorched Minnesota for 41 points in the Sixers’ 99-94 win over the Timberwolves on December 18, especially taking advantage of Troy Hudson.
This time, Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders primarily used Anthony Peeler and rookie Igor Rakocevic to cover Iverson, and the Sixers’ star guard was just 7-of-23 from the field and finished with 21 points.
“I had great team help on Iverson tonight,” Peeler said. “I tried to deny him the ball, but he’s so quick, it’s tough to do. Igor did a great job on him also. Igor is so quick, people don’t realize it.”
After hitting his first four shots, Iverson missed 16 of his next 18.
“I just struggled offensively tonight with my outside shot, and then when I had opportunities to get inside and hit some layups, I couldn’t knock those down,” Iverson said. “I think my rhythm was just off tonight. I started off well, and then it just kind of fell off.”
Minnesota’s power game inside with the 6-11 Garnett and Marc Jackson and Gary Trent off the bench gave the Timberwolves a 60-42 scoring advantage in the paint. Garnett converted 13-of-20 shots, Jackson had 14 points in 14 minutes on 6-of-8 shooting and Trent made all six of his shots for 12 points in 13 minutes.
“Kevin’s been extremely impressive, but tonight I tried to mix it up with Gary on the block, and Marc Jackson was huge,” Saunders said. “Wherever the mismatch was, that’s where we tried to go. I think we’ll try to continue to do that, exploiting any mismatches on the block.”
The Timberwolves used that power to close the first half with a 10-0 run. After Brian Skinner converted a layup to give Philadelphia a 44-38 lead with 2:12 left in the half, Garnett hit a short turnaround jumper and a layup, center Rasho Nesterovic had a layup and an alley-oop dunk off a pass by Peeler and Kendall Gill made a pair of free throws for Minnesota.
Garnett set the tempo for the second half with a block and a dunk in the first minute. Wally Szczerbiak and Hudson combined for nine points in a 13-6 run in the first 4:42 of the third quarter, increasing Minnesota’s lead to 61-50.
After the Sixers closed within 66-60 on a driving layup by Eric Snow with 3:38 left in the third quarter, Rakocevic scored on a layup and Garnett hit a 16-foot jumper to get the lead back to double digits.
Rakocevic closed the third quarter with a 3-pointer and Trent hit a layup 14 seconds into the fourth, giving Minnesota its biggest lead at 79-66.
Philadelphia responded with an 8-2 run on baskets by Aaron McKie, Skinner, Keith Van Horn and Snow to close within 81-74 with 10 minutes left. But Jackson powered inside for a layup and a short jumper as the Sixers went nearly three minutes without a point.
A tip-in by Jackson with two minutes left increased Minnesota’s advantage to 95-86. But Derrick Coleman, who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds off the bench, hit a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to pull the Sixers within 95-91 with 1:24 left.
But Garnett broke free on a pick-and-roll and hit a 16-foot jumper from the left of the key with 1:08 remaining.
“A little miscommunication on the pick-and-roll between Derrick and I,” Snow said. “He (Garnett) gets the ball, and we tried to react. But he, being the All-Star that he is, he made the shot.”
After Iverson missed a layup, Jackson dunked off a pass by Hudson with 41 seconds left to seal the win.
“Today, our ball movement was great,” said Hudson, who had 10 points and nine assists. “We were just making the extra pass and swinging the ball to the open man and getting good looks.”
The victory was the seventh in nine games for the Timberwolves, who had a six-game winning streak before back-to-back losses at Dallas and Houston.
Minnesota raced to a 10-2 lead as Garnett hit a pair of short jumpers.
Iverson scored Philadelphia’s first seven points before Coleman hit a layup and a jumper to help the Sixers tie the game at 13-13 with 4:58 left in the quarter.
Garnett and Szczerbiak combined for 15 points in the first period while Iverson had nine.
Philadelphia took its first lead, 26-25, on a basket by rookie Efthimios Rentzias with 9:57 left in the half.