MINNEAPOLIS, Nov. 13 (Ticker) --
The Minnesota Timberwolves' zone defense has been tough early this season, but the Cleveland Cavaliers did not seem to have any problems with it.
Lamond Murray and the Cavs put a damper on Minnesota's franchise-best start.
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had 29 points and 11 assists as the Cavaliers handed the Timberwolves their first loss of the season, 107-103.
Minnesota's matchup zone had given opponents plenty of trouble. In their first six games, the Timberwolves allowed fewer than 90 points four times.
But Miller and Cleveland had few problems against the zone. Miller was matched against former Cavalier Terrell Brandon
and was able to penetrate for several easy baskets.
"We've playing well on the road," Miller said. "It was a great effort by everybody. Everybody came in and stepped up. They weren't hitting their shots from the perimeter and we were taking advantage of it on the break a little bit."
"This was probably good for us tonight," Brandon said. "It taught us that we need to move the ball inside more. We missed a lot of shots that we haven't been missing."
It appeared early that the Cavs were on their way to another blowout loss. The Timberwolves scored the game's first eight points, but Cleveland regrouped after a timeout.
With the game tied, 29-29, just under three minutes into the second quarter, the Cavs started a 10-1 run that opened a 39-30 lead 5:14 before halftime.
In fact, Cleveland coach John Lucas decided to try and beat the Timberwolves at their own game by employing several variations of the zone. The strategy worked as Minnesota shot just 3-of-19 in the quarter.
"They came out in a zone at us right away," Minnesota forward Joe Smith
said. "We knew that if we were not able to get the ball in the middle or through the seams, it would be tough. We didn't figure out how to break the zone until late in the game."
The Timberwolves had four players in double figures but shot just 35 percent from the perimeter (6-of-17).
led Minnesota with 28 points on 8-of-12 shooting and Smith added 17 on 6-of-12 from the floor.
"Our game plan was to keep them off rhythm, mixing in the zone, with a man and a triangle-and-two and box-and-one," Lucas said.
"I think we surprised them," Cavs forward Lamond Murray
said. "We hit them with their own medicine, we put a zone on them. We played the zone on them and I think it took them out of a lot of things they wanted to do, especially early on in the game. And I think that was the difference."
The Timberwolves never led by more than four points. The lead changed hands nine times in the fourth quarter before Cleveland went ahead for good, 101-98, on Murray's driving layup and free throw with 32.8 seconds remaining.
"We ran the 1-3 pick and roll," Murray said. "I didn't know what they were going to do, most likely trap. But they rotated late and I just drove to the basket trying to get to the foul line, and I hit the `and one.' It was a good play on my part at the end."
Two free throws by Ricky Davis
increased the lead to 103-98 with 19.8 seconds to play.
drilled a 22-foot jumper on Minnesota's next possession to cut the deficit to three points, but the Cavs made four straight free throws to seal the victory.
"We grew up tonight," Lucas said. "This was a good win against the team playing the best basketball in the league. I thought our resilience was the difference tonight."