Timberwolves 86, Pacers 81
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Mired in their longest skid in 18 years, the Indiana Pacers are finding new ways to lose every night.
Their streak hit 10 straight defeats on Tuesday night thanks to a fourth-quarter collapse and a 6-foot-11 point guard.
Kevin Garnett had 30 points and nine rebounds to carry the Minnesota Timberwolves to an 86-81 victory in a game that changed when Garnett became his team’s primary ballhandler at the start of the fourth quarter.
“This one is real disappointing,” said Pacers point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who scored a career-high 37 points. “We had the opportunity to get a win, but nobody’s going to feel sorry for us.”
With the Timberwolves trailing by as many as 14 points in the third quarter, and in danger of being embarrassed on their home floor, Garnett simply took over the game.
“He kind of put his wings out and said, ‘Get underneath me here and let’s go,”’ Wolves coach Randy Wittman said.
Garnett scored 13 of the Wolves’ 23 third-quarter points to keep them in it, then turned into one of the tallest point guards in NBA history at the start of the fourth, a move that jump-started a 16-0 run that put Minnesota on top for good.
“When I bring the ball up, it spreads the defense a little more,” Garnett said. “It makes me a little more versatile in what I want to do and having options, whether I can go pick-and-roll or go to the block.”
Tinsley also had six assists and six rebounds in his second game back from a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. But after dominating the first three quarters, Tinsley and the Pacers fell apart against Garnett’s aggressiveness and Minnesota’s zone defense.
They went 7:02 without a point and are in the middle of their longest losing streak since they dropped 12 in a row in 1989.
“I’m kind of used to it,” Pacers rookie Shawne Williams said with a shrug. “But it’s hard to be up 14 points and still lose the game. We have to stick together and keep our heads up.”
Their latest loss might sting the most. They were in complete control midway through the third period, with Tinsley manhandling counterpart Troy Hudson at the point, and Danny Granger and Williams hitting timely 3s.
In a flash, it all disappeared.
It took the Pacers 8:44 to make their first field goal of the fourth quarter, a 3-pointer by Tinsley that cut Minnesota’s lead to 78-75.
The teams traded baskets the rest of the way, giving the Timberwolves a win they desperately needed.
“We struggled when we hit a drought,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “The first 6 minutes (of the fourth) was our undoing tonight. We had a great third quarter, but didn’t end well.”
Minnesota won for just the third time in 11 games and prepares to start a tough five-game West Coast road trip that Wittman said will decide his club’s fate.
The Wolves trail the Clippers by one game for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference and open the trip on Friday at Golden State. The swing also includes games against Sacramento, Seattle, Phoenix and the Lakers.
“This was big for us,” said Timberwolves rookie Randy Foye, who scored 16 points. “We had to get this one. This one was a definite, right here.”
Pacers F Mike Dunleavy, who had 11 points and six rebounds, drew boos in the fourth when he batted the ball out of bounds. A fan had to have quick hands to keep it from hitting his face. … Indiana C Jeff Foster started for just the fifth time this season, but left in the fourth with a strained back. After starting the previous two games, Ike Diogu came off the bench on Tuesday. … Ricky Davis got a technical late in the first half for throwing his headband into the stands.