Minnesota 121, Dallas 97
Kevin Garnett had 28 points and 19 rebounds as Minnesota bounced back from a poor showing on Sunday with quite an offensive show in a 121-97 win over the Mavericks on Wednesday night.
The Timberwolves scored only 74 points and stumbled down the stretch in a loss at Philadelphia, prompting coach Flip Saunders to give the team Monday off, then an intense practice on Tuesday.
“It was definitely a cleansing,” Garnett said. “We were totally embarrassed in Philly. Yesterday was a very heated practice and we got after it. That carried over to tonight.”
Guard Troy Hudson, who scored 22 points off the bench, said Tuesday’s film session was eye opening.
“We couldn’t believe it when we saw it on tape how slow we were moving,” said Hudson. “Tonight, we wanted to force the issue and exploit every scoring opportunity we had.”
The results could not have been better for the Timberwolves, who shot 55.2 percent from the field and set a season high for points scored in a regulation game and 3-pointers—hitting 11 of 21. Hudson was 4-for-9 from behind the arc, while Latrell Sprewell hit four 3s and scored 20.
“We have Wally (Szczerbiak) and Troy, and if people are scrambling to them it opens up the floor for Spre,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. “The 3s we were getting were pretty wide open.”
Saunders gave much of the credit for the perimeter space to the play of center Michael Olowokandi, who was 6-for-7 from the floor, scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds. Saunders said Olowokandi flourished because the Mavericks tried to pay extra attention to Garnett, who averaged 30.0 points, 17.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists in three games against Dallas this season.
“They were very much aware of KG, and they let (Olowokandi) alone down in the block in a lot of one-on-one situations. If he keeps scoring like that, they’ll have to start guarding him. The one time they came down and trapped him, he threw it out to Spre for an open 3.”
Marquis Daniels and Michael Finley each scored 16 points for the Mavericks, who had won 19 of 23 games, but were playing without point guard Steve Nash for the second straight night. Nash missed the game with a stomach virus. Dirk Nowitzki added 15 points, all in the first half.
The Timberwolves earned their 44th win, tying with Sacramento for most in the Western Conference, and now lead San Antonio by four games and Dallas by 4 1/2 games in the Midwest Division.
After shooting 65.1 percent in the first half in taking a 67-62 lead at the break, Minnesota took command in the third quarter. Sprewell hit three 3-pointers and had 13 points as the Timberwolves outscored Dallas 30-16 in the quarter.
“We were doing a great job and then we let it slip away,” said Dallas guard Josh Howard, who replaced Nash in the starting lineup. “They played great defense and knocked down shots as well. When things like that happen, the score ends up like it did today.”
The Mavericks were playing the back end of a two-game stretch that began with a home win over Seattle, and they looked a step slow as the Timberwolves pulled away in the second half.
“We were slower on contesting shots, and we weren’t moving with the sense of urgency like we had the last five or six games,” the Mavericks’ Antawn Jamison said. “I don’t like making excuses, but you could tell it was a back-to-back tonight. That’s what a playoff caliber team like Minnesota issupposed to do.”
Jamison sprained his right ankle in the third quarter and did not return, but said after the game the injury was not serious. … Minnesota’s 67-point first half is the most the Timberwolves have scored in any half this season. … On Monday, Garnett was named NBA Western Conference Player of the Month for February. He became the first player to win the award three straight months. Garnett averaged 25.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.6 steals in 15 games. … The Mavericks finished February 9-2, their best February in team history. … Nash averaged 21.3 points in three games againstthe Timberwolves this season.