Garnett, who was named the All-Star Game’s Most Valuable Player on Sunday, collected 26 points and 17 rebounds as the Minnesota Timberwolves coasted to a 102-91 triumph over the Cavaliers.
“When you get an opportunity to go play in the All-Star Game with all the great stars and he’s the star of all of them, that sums it up right there,” Cleveland coach Keith Smart said.
“We got a great contribution (35 points) from the bench,” Szczerbiak said. “Kendall’s contribution was huge. We’re coming together as a team.”
The Timberwolves’ performance was especially impressive considering that they did not arrive in Cleveland until 1 p.m. Wednesday.
“The day trip was hell, but you can’t give excuses, you have to go out and play,” said Garnett, whose squad edged league-leading Dallas at home on Tuesday, 100-98. “For the most part, in the first half, we were basically trying to find our rhythm.”
Minnesota trailed by 10 points midway through the first quarter before evening the score entering the second period, 32-32. The Timberwolves took the lead for good, 51-49, on a jumper by Anthony Peeler with 3:01 left in the first half.
“It’s not a time to sit back and nit-pick and talk about what could have been - you’ve got to play,” Garnett said. “We were under some hectic situations, but sometimes it’s going to be like that. Tonight, I think the team showed a lot of character in going out and playing the game without, to me, not 100 percent energy.”
The edge was just 57-54 entering the third quarter, but the Wolves limited the Cavs to 24 percent shooting (5-of-21) in the period to open an 80-66 advantage. Minnesota led by at least nine points and as many as 19 in the fourth quarter.
“We started executing our sets and playing through KG (Garnett),” Minnesota coach and Cleveland native Flip Saunders said of the team’s second-half performance.
All-Star Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds in a 107-96 loss at Indiana on Tuesday, was held to just five points on 2-of-10 shooting.
“Z just had one of those nights,” Smart said. “He’s played very, very well the last several games and you’re just going to have those nights.”
“We wanted to be aggressive early and got after it,” Saunders said. “We doubled and fronted (Ilgauskas). We didn’t want them to dictate the tempo. We tried to cut off one of their main guys.”
The Cavs had won 15 of their previous 20 contests against the Timberwolves.