MINNEAPOLIS, Feb. 17 (Ticker) -- Chauncey Billups
had a big game. He's going to have to have a few more if the Minnesota Timberwolves want to have a big season.
Billups had 23 points and eight assists and was part of every key surge as the Timberwolves cruised to a 93-80 victory over the Miami Heat.
Billups has moved into the starting lineup to replace point guard Terrell Brandon, who likely will miss the rest of the season due to chronic knee problems.
The five-year veteran filled in as a starter earlier this season, when Brandon was sidelined following arthroscopic knee surgery. He played well during that stretch but now must fill the role for the remainder of the season and the playoffs.
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Kevin Garnett looks to create against Brian Grant.
"It makes the game so much easier when he pushes the ball like that," Minnesota guard Wally Szczerbiak
said. "I can't say enough about how he has stepped in. He's playing great."
"The team enjoys the way I play," Billups said. "I like to get out and go. The team loves that. Wally and Kevin (Garnett) love the up-tempo game."
Wally Szczerbiak scored 22 points and Kevin Garnett added 12 and 12 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who had lost seven of their last 11 games but swept the season series from the Heat.
"It's important for all of us to carry our roles, but at the end of the day, the offense will be run through me," Garnett said.
Eddie Jones scored 17 points for Miami, which had won 15 of its last 21 games but was limited to 53 points through the first three quarters.
"We win 12 out of 15 games and we think we're an .800 team," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "What we are is a .400 team, but guys don't see that."
The Heat had trouble with Minnesota's 3-2 zone, often settling for jumpers and shooting just 40 percent (32-of-80).
"I thought for the most part, we played well defensively," said Minnesota coach Flip Saunders. "We were able to change defenses and dictate the tempo of the game."
"We want to be a team that has defense as our backbone," said Szczerbiak. "We are getting towards that."
A runner by Billups triggered a 12-0 run that gave the Wolves the lead for good. His driving layup capped it at 14-4 with 7:33 left in the first quarter.
"Right from the get-go, they were so much more ready to play than we were," Riley said. "Our guys weren't ready at all."
Minnesota led 26-17 after one period and a three-point play by Billups capped an 8-0 burst that widened the advantage to 38-22 with 7:09 left in the second quarter.
Trailing 50-36 at halftime, Miami scored the first five points of the third quarter. Minnesota responded with a 20-4 burst as Billups scored seven points and Szczerbiak added six.
"He just needs to be allowed to play," Szczerbiak said. "He will make a few mistakes, but he cannot let it affect him."
A short jumper by rookie Loren Woods capped the surge and gave the Wolves their largest lead at 70-45 with 2:51 left.
Joe Smith scored 11 points for Minnesota, which shot 53 percent (40-of-76) and made 11-of-12 free throws.
Jim Jackson scored 13 points and Eddie House added 12 for the Heat, who committed 19 turnovers.