MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Kevin Garnett established Minnesota’s franchise record on Friday by bumping his season minutes total to 3,249.
And in case anyone needed a reminder, Garnett showed again how valuable he is to the Timberwolves with a typical 24 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists in a 106-90 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Minnesota (49-31) moved into fourth place in the Western Conference playoff race with Portland’s loss to Memphis.
“You’ve just got to take the same mind-set into every game,” Garnett said.
Garnett isn’t going to get much rest before the postseason, but Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders doesn’t have much choice.
“You’re always concerned,” Saunders said, “but that’s just the way it is. That’s why I’ve said he’s the MVP, because of the drop-off we do have and everything he does for us.”
Those two teams play on Sunday, when the Timberwolves host Chicago. The No. 4 seed gets the home-court advantage for the expanded first-round series.
“We’re just trying to control our own destiny and get home court,” Szczerbiak said. “That’s our main goal.”
They began a back-and-forth second half with an 18-12 run that cut the Wolves’ lead to 61-58.
Then Minnesota, which shot 72 percent (13-for-18) in the third, outscored Los Angeles 13-2 over the final three minutes of the period to take an 85-65 lead on Marc Jackson’s pull-up 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“We definitely thought it was our turn,” Brand said, “but you have to give them credit, because they fought hard. They really wanted that victory.”
If both the Wolves and the Lakers win out—they finish by hosting Denver and playing at Golden State—they’ll meet in the first round with the three-time defending champs winning the tiebreaker for the fourth seed.
That would make it tough for Minnesota to end its string of six straight opening-round exits, but the Timberwolves are trying to avoid thoughts about potential postseason opponents.
“It’s important to focus game-by-game,” Garnett said. “Don’t dilute yourself or your team by thinking about it.”
After a 39-43 record last year and the summer acquisition of point guard Andre Miller, many thought the Clippers could challenge for a playoff spot.
Instead, they’re winding down yet another not-so-classic season.
With Lamar Odom a late scratch because of a sore left ankle, Los Angeles used its 23rd different starting lineup this year.
“We missed his play out on the floor,” coach Dennis Johnson said. “But we’ve been facing that all year.”
The Wolves used a 15-2 run to build a 35-20 lead early in the second period, but the Clippers stayed close with a couple of rim-rattling fast-break dunks by Yugoslav rookie Marko Jaric and a few timely outside shots by Maggette.
Minnesota backup point guard Rod Strickland, who’s been hobbled by a strained groin for a large part of the second half of the season, returned to action after coming off the injured list earlier Friday and tied a season high with 11 assists in 17 minutes.
“Rod gave us an unbelievable effort,” Garnett said.
Gary Trent had 12 points for the Timberwolves. They’re 15-1 when he scores 10 points or more. … Jackson, a 6-foot-10, 270-pound center, is 6-for-25 from 3-point range in his three-year career. … Garnett tied a Wolves’ season record with his 61st game with 20 points or more. Tony Campbell did it in 1989-90. … Clippers players have now missed a total of 283 games to injury or illness. Most notably missing was center Michael Olowokandi, the No. 1 overall pick in 1998 who has been out since Jan. 31 with a sprained left knee. … Minnesota’s franchise record for wins is 50, set in 1999-2000 and2001-02.