Timberwolves 109, Wizards 74

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—The Minnesota Timberwolves rebounded from their worst game of the season with one of their best.

Wally Szczerbiak’s 23 points led four starters in double figures as Minnesota routed the Washington Wizards 109-74 Sunday.

“I was just going to the basket and they were letting me go,” Szczberiak said.

Sam Cassell added 22 points, Kevin Garnett 18 and Latrell Sprewell 11 for Minnesota, which snapped a two-game losing streak. The Timberwolves (16-10) have beaten the Wizards seven straight times.

Gilbert Arenas scored 21 points to lead Washington (14-11), which wrapped up a five-game road trip with its worst loss of the season, eclipsing a 105-74 setback at Cleveland Nov. 13. Larry Hughes added 13 for the Wizards.

Coach Flip Saunders was impressed with Minnesota’s all-around performance, three days removed from their worst loss of the season—a 96-82 defeat at San Antonio.

“Defensively we were more solid and we did more positive things and eventually it became contagious,” Saunders said. “When you get 13 steals and 16 offensive rebounds, that really shows your team aggressiveness. Offensively, when we play the right way, everybody gets involved.”

Timberwolves players were more pleased with their defensive effort. Washington shot just 38.7 percent and committed 20 turnovers—its third straight game with at least that many.

“This is something that we need to look at and see why we were successful,” Fred Hoiberg said. “All five guys were in the lane when someone was penetrating. Guys were there to help out and make them kick out the shot and then get a hand up on the perimeter.”

“Offense comes and goes,” Sprewell said. “But if you’re consistent on defense you always have a shot to win night in and night out.”

It also helps when you commit just seven turnovers—a season low for Minnesota. Washington leads the league at forcing turnovers (17.7).

Washington forward Antawn Jamison expressed concern after the Wizards lost for the fourth time in six games. He finished with eight points, nearly 14 below his season average.

“We’ve been taking a lot of steps backwards lately,” Jamison said. “We need to collect ourselves and get back to the style of basketball we are used to. We’ve let some good opportunities slip.”

Garnett scored nine of his points in the third quarter, including an alley-oop from Anthony Carter, as Minnesota built a 19-point lead. He added 12 rebounds and eight assists—the 14th time he’s led Minnesota in all three categories.

“KG’s a guy that’s hard to prepare for,” Washington coach Eddie Jordan. “He’s one of about five guys in the league like that. He can do it for himself and what’s more important is he helps his teammates get better.”

Szczberiak, Hoiberg and Cassell each scored during an 8-2 spurt in the first to put the Wolves up 21-14.

A tip-in and a dunk by Eddie Griffin, followed by Troy Hudson’s jumper gave Minnesota a 36-23 lead midway through the second quarter and Szczberiak added a 3-pointer just before the half for a 47-36 lead at the break.

Hughes pulled the Wizards within 10 points with a layup 4 minutes into the third quarter. Minnesota responded by outscoring the Wizards 12-5, including six points from Sprewell, over the next three minutes to push the lead back to 65-48.

Minnesota, which entered the game 26th in the league in free throw attempts, had none in the first half, but finished 21-for-22.

Notes

The winning margin tied the Minnesota’s Dec. 8 victory at Philadelphia, and tied for the team’s third largest all-time. The Timberwolves’ record is a 127-74 win over Chicago Nov. 8, 2001. … Washington placed guard Laron Profit on the injured list night with a strained left foot and activated guard Steve Blake. … Hoiberg, who leads the league in 3-point accuracy at 57.4 percent, finished 1-for-5. As a team Minnesota was 4-for-16, while Washington was 4-for-17. … The game concluded a 13-game stretch in which the Timberwolves faced 10 non-playoff teams from last season. They went 8-5.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Washington
G. Arenas G. Arenas
7-13,  21 Pts
5 Rebs, 3 Assists
 Minnesota
K. Garnett K. Garnett
6-12,  18 Pts
12 Rebs, 8 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists