MINNEAPOLIS, Dec. 18 (Ticker) --
The Minnesota Timberwolves were looking for some payback, but Michael Finley
and Tim Hardaway
engineered a comeback.
Finley scored seven straight points to tie the game and Hardaway drilled a pair of go-ahead jumpers as the Dallas Mavericks stormed back from a 22-point deficit for a 107-103 victory over the Timberwolves.
The Mavericks turned back the Wolves on Saturday in Dallas and swept the home-and-home series the hard way. They closed the gap to one game on second-place Minnesota (16-7) in the Midwest Division.
"It was a big win for us," Finley said. "A lot of people will not see the significance of it now, but later on in the season, when we're jockeying for playoff position -- where one win might mean a position or two -- the importance of this win will show."
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Timberwolves triple teams couldn't stop Michael Finley from scoring a game-high 26 points.
"It feels good when you're down 22 and you come back in somebody else's gym," Hardaway said. "This is the kind of win that gets us to the next step."
It was the largest lead wasted by the Timberwolves in franchise history.
"The things we did so well to give us the lead -- pound the glass, move the ball -- we didn't do in the second half," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said.
Finley scored 26 points and led the late charge. He had a pair of free throws, a 3-pointer and a short jumper to pull Dallas into a 96-96 tie with 2:19 remaining.
Finley answered a basket by Joe Smith
with a thunderous dunk over Smith, and Hardaway took over from there as he sank a 21-footer with 46 seconds left, giving the Mavs a 100-98 lead -- their first since the opening quarter.
made a layup, but Hardaway -- as he has done so many times in his career -- pulled the trigger on a 3-pointer over 7-footer Kevin Garnett
for a 103-100 lead with 18 seconds to go.
"If I hesitate, I come up short, so I'm not going to hesitate and I'll make it," Hardaway said. "Kevin Garnett gave me too much room and I shot it."
"Tim's been playing with a lot more confidence in the last two weeks," Mavs coach Don Nelson said. "In the first few weeks of the season, he wouldn't have hit those shots."
Garnett had a chance to tie it, but his 3-pointer rattled out. Dirk Nowitzki
and Steve Nash
each made two free throws around three by Minnesota's Sam Mitchell
for the final margin.
Nowitzki had 24 points and 15 rebounds, Nash scored 23 points and Hardaway added 15 for the Mavs, who shot 44 percent (35-of-80) from the field, including 9-of-20 from the arc.
"Being one of the premier shooting teams in the league, no lead is too big for us to overcome," Finley said. "We know we have the shooters that can get us out of it."
"I told our guys Dallas has come back from 20 points down six times," Saunders said. "A 20-point lead on these guys is like a 10-point lead on anybody else."
started for the injured Terrell Brandon
and had 23 points and seven assists for Minnesota. Brandon was placed on the injured list with a loose body in his left knee.
scored 18 points and Garnett added 15 for the Wolves, who had a six-game home winning streak snapped. Prior to its two losses to Dallas, Minnesota had won six in a row.
"You have to finish games out," Garnett said. "I've got to make sure everybody's ready, not lackadaisical and not complacent, so we can finish games out. I take that responsibility."
The Wolves took their largest lead at 80-58 on Szczerbiak's hoop with 5:43 left in the third quarter. They still held an 84-64 advantage with just under three minutes to play before the Mavs closed the quarter with a 9-2 surge.
Two free throws by Finley, three from Nowitzki and one from Nash cut the deficit to 90-83 with just under eight minutes to go.
Billups scored 11 points in the first quarter as Minnesota raced to a 30-19 lead. The Mavs closed to 35-31 early in the second quarter before Billups scored six points in a 15-2 surge that rebuilt the lead to 50-33 with 4 1/2 minutes to play.
"I knew that I was going to start this morning," Billups said. "It doesn't change your focus."
A short jumper by Garnett extended the advantage to 58-36 with 1:57 remaining.
Szczerbiak scored 13 points for Minnesota, which shot 46 percent (38-of-83).