Brandon Starts and Wolves Prosper vs. Hawks
MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 26 (Ticker) -- Terrell Brandon
returned to the starting lineup and the Minnesota Timberwolves returned to their winning ways.
Brandon scored 14 points and piloted the offense with 12 assists as the Timberwolves snapped a two-game losing streak by rolling to a 103-80 victory over the hapless Atlanta Hawks.
Brandon returned from knee surgery four games ago but had been coming off the bench, playing no more than 27 minutes. That appeared to be the case again as Chauncey Billups
originally was listed in the starting lineup by coach Flip Saunders.
"It was Flip's call," Brandon said. "I was ready. Chauncey has proven he is the best backup point guard in the league, so we have the best 1-2 punch, no matter who is starting."
NBA.comTV highlights from Hawks-Timberwolves:
Wally Szczerbiak is tops in FG% amongst NBA guards, and he made seven of nine shots vs. Atlanta.
Brandon got the start and played an extremely solid game. In 25 minutes, he made 6-of-9 shots and collected three steals while committing just one turnover.
"We had lost a couple and had bad starts," Brandon said. "We wanted to get off to a better start tonight."
"Brandon was plus-42, which was astronomical," Saunders said. "It's nice to have two guys that can play that position."
Brandon covered for Billups, who missed all four of his shots, scored one point and committed four turnovers in 23 minutes.
"That is their point guard," Atlanta guard Jason Terry
said. "He and Billups play well together. They're just so deep."
"It is great," superstar forward Kevin Garnett
said of the point guard situation. "You can't ask for much more. The only thing is to get a little more consistency between the two. If we get that, we'll be OK."
Selected as a starter for next month's All-Star Game earlier in the day, Garnett scored 20 points. Wally Szczerbiak
added 16 for the Timberwolves, who avoided a season-high skid and won for the 12th time in 15 games. Minnesota improved to 19-2 at the Target Center.
Terry scored 16 points for the Hawks, who have lost nine of 10 overall and five in a row to the Wolves. Atlanta again was without leading scorer Shareef Abdur-Rahim
, who served the final game of his three-game suspension for fighting.
The Hawks were even at 29-29 on a jumper by DerMarr Johnson with 9:15 left in the second quarter. Brandon and Garnett scored six points each in a 19-2 burst, capped by Garnett's dunk off an alley-oop pass from Brandon for a 48-31 lead with 3:47 to play.
The Hawks answered with 10 straight points to close the half and began the third quarter with a jumper by Mark Strickland
to cut the deficit to 48-43.
But the Wolves exploded again, this time with an 18-1 run. Garnett scored six points and Brandon handed out five assists, including a feed to Rasho Nesterovic
for a dunk that made it 66-44 with 6:20 to go.
"In the third quarter, we took care of business," Brandon said. "We came out and turned up the intensity on defense."
"After we came out with a slow start tonight, Flip jumped us a little bit at halftime," Garnett said. "Sometimes we need that. When you have lost, you try to get the monkey off your back."
Minnesota led 81-58 after three quarters and by as many as 33 points in the final period as the starters rested.
"We weren't able to match them when they turned it up in the third quarter and got more aggressive," Hawks coach Lon Kruger said. "After that run, they played pretty comfortably, and that was it."
Rookie Loren Woods
scored 11 points and fellow reserves Anthony Peeler
and Sam Mitchell
added 10 apiece for the Wolves, who scored 37 points off 24 turnovers by the Hawks.
Strickland scored 12 points and Nazr Mohammed
added 11 and 11 boards for Atlanta, which shot 37 percent (26-of-70).