Minnesota 97, L.A. Clippers 83
MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 15 (Ticker) -- Kevin Garnett
collected 18 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists to help the Minnesota Timberwolves extend their season-high winning streak to nine games with an easy 97-83 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Wally Szczerbiak added 21 points for Minnesota, which became the first team to reach 28 wins.
The Clippers led 26-25 after one quarter, but Anthony Peeler began the second period with a jumper that gave Minnesota the lead for good. After Elton Brand made a basket to cut the deficit to 45-38 with 5:24 left, the Timberwolves closed the half on a 15-2 run and took a 60-40 lead into the break.
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Chauncey Billups keeps Lamar Odom at bay.
"In the second quarter, we turned the ball over four out of seven possessions, and I think they scored layups on all four turnovers," Clippers coach Alvin Gentry said. "You're just not going to beat a good team when you turn the ball over and let them get out and run. We just had that real bad stretch, which against a good team is more than enough to kill you."
In the second half, Minnesota led by as many as 27 points and Los Angeles never got closer than 12.
Minnesota shot 45 percent (41-of-91) from the field and limited Los Angeles to 39 percent (34-of-90).
Joe Smith returned from an eight-game absence due to injury to score 17 points and Chauncey Billups had 15 for the Wolves, whose winning streak is two shy of the franchise record set last January 17-February 7.
"Joe Smith looked like he hadn't been hurt," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "He had 17 points and seven rebounds. He gives our team help on defense. With his length, he helps us out offensively on the boards, and does a lot of the dirty work. We look at him as a barometer of our team. If he's getting shots, then we're playing well."
"All I was thinking about was picking up where I left off," said Smith, who entered the contest averaging 12.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. "We just wanted to keep playing the way we're playing. I didn't want to mess up the eight-game winning streak."
Brand had 17 points and 13 rebounds and reserve Darius Miles added 18 and 10 for the Clippers, who fell to 3-13 on the road after concluding a 1-5 trip.
"We need to get back home and regroup," Gentry said. "Before we leave for the next road trip, we need to find a confidence level to be able to win on the road. Good teams find a way to win road games."
"We're eager to get home (and) very relieved to know it's over," Brand said. "It was a tough road trip for us. We won only one game. We'll be glad to get home and be in front of our own fans, and start winning some games again."
"We just didn't play well tonight," said Lamar Odom, who scored 11 points but shot just 5-of-16. "We got beat by a hot team. We can't make any excuses."
The Wolves avenged a 94-75 loss to the Clippers at the Staples Center on November 28.
"They should've had a lot of confidence, because they beat us by 20 in their place," Billups said. "The first quarter was kind of lackadaisical, but the second quarter was big for us, where we picked up and played 'D.' The second quarter -- that was Timberwolves basketball."
"We're playing within our roles -- playing team basketball," Saunders said. "We're shooting well, setting up the defense ... it's a domino effect. Everyone accepts their roles and plays extremely unselfishly."