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Timberwolves 90, Magic 75

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- Don't look now, but a week into the season, the Minnesota Timberwolves lead the Northwest Division -- even without injured stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.

Minnesota improved to 3-1 with a 90-75 victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday at Target Center.

The Timberwolves are off to their best start since Kevin Garnett pushed them to a 6-0 record a decade ago.

They followed Monday's improbable comeback victory at Brooklyn by overcoming a Magic team that wouldn't go away for nearly three quarters before succumbing to the Wolves and backup center Greg Stiemsma.

That's right, Greg Stiemsma.

Signed away from Boston last summer to a contract with only one season guaranteed, Steimsma scored the third quarter's final six points just when J.J. Redick shot the Magic back into the game.

Then Stiemsma scored six more points early in the fourth quarter, finishing off a 19-4 Minnesota run with a jump shot that gave the Wolves a 77-57 lead.

He made six of seven shots and finished with 12 points and five rebounds.

The Wolves committed 20 turnovers and still won by 15 points against an Orlando team that arrived ranked fifth in the NBA in scoring and third in 3-point percentage.

Starting point guard Luke Ridnour led the Wolves with 19 points. Redick had 16 points for Orlando, which is now 2-2 after losses Tuesday night in Chicago and Wednesday in Minneapolis.

The Timberwolves returned home Wednesday after rallied Monday from a 22-point deficit to win 107-96 against the Nets.

They pulled that one off by allowing the Nets just 10 fourth-quarter points in a finish that saw them score 15 of the final 17 points, including the last 11.

On Wednesday, they started where they left off, holding down the Magic to a take a 25-12 lead after one quarter.

Minnesota got there by making 10 of its first 15 shots. Then coach Rick Adelman went to largely the same unit of reserves that played most of Monday's fourth quarter.

On Wednesday, that unit missed 11 consecutive shots to start the second quarter and didn't score until Alexey Shved made a shot from the lane midway through the period.

Despite the Wolves' inefficiency, the Magic never got closer than 31-27 in the second quarter. Minnesota then stretch the lead to as many as nine points before Orlando got within 38-34 at halftime.

NOTES: Wolves backup point guard J.J. Barea left the game in the fourth quarter because of a left foot injury after he jammed it into the scorer's table while chasing a loose ball. That injury came three nights after he left a game in Toronto early with concussion-like symptoms after getting hit hard in the head. ... Magic starting point guard Jameer Nelson missed his third consecutive game because of a strained hamstring and groin. He was again replaced in the starting lineup by E'Twaun Moore. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said Nelson is day-to-day. ... Vaughn inserted Josh McRoberts in his starting lineup at small forward at match up against Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko. ... The Timberwolves averaged 3.8 blocked shots last season. They entered Wednesday's game averaging 8.67 a game, thanks in good part to newcomers Kirilenko and Stiemsma. Both were tied for fifth in the league in blocks at 2.67 a game, even though Stiemsma was playing just 14 minutes a game. ... Wednesday's center matchup featured dueling Montenegrins named Nikolas: Pekovic for the Wolves, Vucevic for the Magic. They're teammates on their national team. "We're good friends," Pekovic said. "We talk a lot." ... Teammates have given Russian rookie Shved a new nickname after he cut his hair and lost the headband: They're calling him Toni Kukoc because Rubio called him that on Twitter after tweeting a picture of the freshly shorn Shved sleeping on the team plane. "I don't know about that," Shved said. "Ask Ricky Rubio."
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