MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 30 (Ticker) --
For 12½ minutes, it was still last season.
Kevin Garnett wasn't at his best, but the Wolves had his back.
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Then the Philadelphia 76ers realized a new campaign had begun and allowed the Minnesota Timberwolves to rip off 15 straight points en route to a season-opening 83-74 victory at the Target Center.
Beset by injuries during the exhibition season, the 76ers, reigning Eastern Conference champions, came out strong and led 25-17 just 27 seconds into the second quarter after a jumper by Speedy Claxton.
However, the momentum quickly swung, thanks to Chauncey Billups, who netted 11 points and dished out two assists during the 15-0 burst as the Timberwolves built a 32-25 lead with just over seven minutes to play before halftime.
Billups, who finished with 22 points, capped the spurt with a pair of free throws.
"When I come in for Terrell (Brandon), I have to make sure we don't have a letdown," Billups said. "It was nice to come in and have it going right away."
A fourth-year pro from Colorado, Billups also began Minnesota's comeback with a 3-pointer from the right sideline. He grabbed a rebound moments later and fed Wally Szczerbiak for a basket before draining a 19-footer than pulled the Timberwolves within one.
Billups' basket in the lane with 9:09 left in the quarter gave Minnesota the lead for good and he then took a feed from Anthony Peeler to bury a jumper from the left sideline for a 28-25 advantage.
Rookie Loren Woods finally broke the one-man show, although he was on the receiving end of a pass from Billups for an easy layup. A rebound by Woods also preceded Billups' free throws that made it a seven-point contest.
"They are a terrific team," 76ers coach Larry Brown said of the Timberwolves. "They can show you a lot of looks."
Playing without 2001 league MVP Allen Iverson (elbow) and fellow guards Aaron McKie (shoulder) and Eric Snow (thumb), the 76ers were unable to put up much of a fight the rest of the way, shooting a meager 37.5 percent (27-of-72).
In place of Iverson and Snow, the 76ers started Claxton and Raja Bell.
"I was concerned starting with two young guards," Brown said. "We struggled but I liked it, we worked hard. We have guys that i have to explain things too every timeout. But at the same time we have good additions."
Claxton led Philadelphia with 20 points and Derrick Coleman, re-acquired by the team just prior to the season's start, had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the 76ers, who committed 21 turnovers.
"The biggest thing we are focusing on his trying to play hard defense," said Billups. "I was focused on picking up the pace and keeping the tempo."
Joe Smith had 15 points and eight rebounds and Kevin Garnett contributed 12 and seven with five assists for Minnesota, which connected on 42 percent (24-of-81) of its shots from the field and had only 11 miscues.
"It's a sign of a good team to be able to come out here and win games despite not being on," said Szczerbiak. "This is a good game and our defense gave us a lift. If we get down and dirty on defense we know we can shoot well, and it is a recipe for success."