Minnesota 108, Miami 91

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MINNEAPOLIS (TICKER) —The “Big Ticket” cashed in at the hands of an overmatched foe.

Kevin Garnett continued to state his case for MVP honors and he received some help from Wally Szczerbiak as the Minnesota Timberwolves cruised to a 108-91 rout of the Miami Heat.

Nicknamed the “Big Ticket,” Garnett is one of the NBA’s top talents who often provides matchup problems with his ability to play both down low and away from the basket.

The 7-foot Garnett dominated against the Heat, finishing with 26 points, eight rebounds and eight assists before leaving the court late in the fourth quarter to chants of “MVP, MVP.”

Miami coach Pat Riley used a trio of defenders on Garnett - including 6-7 rookie Caron Butler - to no avail. The Wolves’ star had his way with each one, going 10-of-15 from the field.

“Our plan was to deny him the ball and defend the post and get some help,” Rileu said.

“Every night, I’m up for any kind of challenge,” Garnett said. “I was up tonight just because it was Pat Riley and the Miami Heat. You don’t really get up or down for specific teams. Everybody presents their own challenges for you.”

Garnett has another challenge that he has yet to meet - win a playoff series, which is something he has been unable to do in his first seven seasons.

Minnesota never has had home-court advantage in the playoffs, but is one game ahead of Portland for fourth place in the Western Conference.

“The foremost thought is getting home-court advantage and making a statement in the playoffs,” Garnett said.”

Szczerbiak also netted 26 points for Minnesota, which led by as many as 26 points en route to its fourth straight win.

“Games like this, you’ve got to take care of business and play well,” Szczerbiak said. “We did a good job of putting it away early.”

Butler finished with 21 points and Anthony Carter handed out a career-high 15 assists for the Heat, who lost for the 10th time in their last 12 games as they continue to improve their position in the NBA lottery.

The Wolves led virtually the entire way and went in front for good at 13-12 on Szczerbiak’s driving layup with 5:59 left in the opening quarter. They extended the margin to 30-23 after 12 minutes behind 10 points from Szczerbiak and six from Garnett.

Szczerbiak, who will be relied on to help take some pressure off Garnett if the Wolves are to win a postseason series, finished 10-of-13 from the field.

Troy Hudson added 17 points and Marc Jackson 10 for the Wolves, who shot 49 percent (42-of-85) from the field and made 18-of-20 free throws. Jackson also had 10 rebounds, helping his club to a commanding 52-33 advantage.

“We can get things going,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. “When we move the ball, when we distribute the ball, we can be pretty effective. You just can’t hold the ball against these guys. We didn’t hold the ball very much tonight. We moved the pretty well.”

A 20-footer by Jackson capped a 13-5 surge to start the second quarter that provided Minnesota a 43-28 advantage. Garnett had two baskets during the spurt, including an alley-oop dunk off a pass from Anthony Peeler.

Garnett and Szczerbiak had plenty of easy shots in the first half, combining to go 11-of-16. Behind the duo, the Wolves held a 56-46 advantage at the break.

“He (Garnett) made some tough shots, and the team just started to feed off him,” Butler said. “He draws so much attention that you tend to forget about the other guys. We can’t let that happen. Too many other players are beating us out there.”

It still was a 10-point game with 4:07 left in the third following a basket by Malik Allen before the Wolves took control by closing the period on an 11-4 run.

Peeler started the surge with a 3-pointer and Hudson capped it with a layup with 1.8 seconds left in the period for an 87-70 advantage. A basket by Kendall Gill, who played for the Heat last season, gave the Wolves their biggest lead at 104-78 remaining in the contest.

LaPhonso Ellis added 13 points and Allen and Eddie House each had 11 for Miami, which shot 42 percent (36-of-85).

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Miami
C. Butler C. Butler
7-14,  21 Pts
5 Rebs, 6 Assists
 Minnesota
K. Garnett K. Garnett
10-15,  26 Pts
8 Rebs, 8 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists