MINNEAPOLIS, March 28 (Ticker) --
For one night, the Minnesota
Timberwolves had the better point guard.
scored 23 points and matched a franchise
record with 17 assists as the Timberwolves held on for a
thrilling 113-111 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
Billups has been inconsistent since taking over the starting
point guard duties from Terrell Brandon
, who is out for the
remainder of the season with a knee injury. But the third
overall pick in the 1997 draft had one of the best games of
career on Thursday.
Billups was brilliant the entire night and his pass around two
defenders set up a dunk by Rasho Nesterovic
with 1:10 remaining
that gave the Timberwolves a 112-108 lead.
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Chauncey Billups dished out a team-record tying 17 assists and scored 10 of his 23 points in the third quarter.
"I was being very aggressive trying to get into the lane," said
Billups, who tied Stephon Marbury's
franchise record for
assists in game. "I was drawing guys to me, I would then kick
it around and guys were knocking it down."
Dallas All-Star point guard Steve Nash
, who was badly outplayed
by his counterpart in this one, sank a 3-pointer 10 seconds
later to narrow the deficit to one.
Billups and Kevin Garnett
each missed shots on the Wolves' next
possession, giving Dallas a chance to take the lead. Going
without a timeout, the Mavs kept the ball in the hands of Nash,
whose acrobatic driving lefthanded layup hit the back of the
rim with 1.3 seconds left.
Garnett was fouled and made 1-of-2 from the line, giving
Dallas, which rallied from a 19-point deficit in the third
quarter, one last chance.
Following a timeout, Nick Van Exel
found Nash along the right
side, where he shook free from Robert Pack
. But his shot from
just inside the arc rimmed out as time expired. Nash finished
with seven points, making just 3-of-10 shots.
"I had a great look on the last shot, and I thought it was
good," Nash said. "I was shocked it didn't go in, but maybe we
didn't deserve it. When they called my number on the last play,
I was thinking this is so beautiful that I get a second chance,
after I missed the layup the last time down. It was a great
pass, I had a great look."
Garnett, who left for a stretch late in the third quarter after
taking a hard fall and cutting open his head, scored 20 points
and grabbed 18 rebounds for Minnesota, which has struggled to
beat the contenders in the West since Brandon got hurt.
scored 34 points and Van Exel added 20 off the
bench for the Mavericks, who fell into a first-place tie with
San Antonio in the Midwest Division. Dallas is one win shy of
the fourth 50-win season in franchise history.
"We were concerned about this game all day," Dallas coach Don
Nelson said. "You don't want to back a cat up into the corner
for sure, and that's kind of where they were."
Having lost 10 of 13 games this month, the Timberwolves held a
players-only meeting on Wednesday to discuss their lackluster
play and came out in this contest looking like the team that
was once 21 games over .500.
, who suffered a sprained right wrist in
Tuesday's loss to Golden State, was on fire in the opening
half, making 8-of-9 shots from the field as the Wolves led by
as many as 13 points before settling for a 66-54 advantage at
the break. Minnesota shot 58 percent (28-of-48) in the half.
"We played free," Szczerbiak said. "We didn't play scared. We
played with a lot of confidence, and that's how we need to
play. Hopefully we learn from this win and play like this the
rest of the way. I think we can use this win as a good
confidence builder and a springboard."
Szczerbiak shot 12-of-16 for 26 points and Nesterovic added 18
for the Wolves, who shot 55 percent (46-of-84) overall and held
a 38-33 rebounding advantage.
A running jumper by Szczerbiak with 5:38 left in the third
quarter gave the Wolves an 83-64 advantage. But they received a
major scare 30 seconds later when their superstar departed.
Garnett bit on a pump-fake by Wang Zhizhi
in the left corner
and fell hard to the ground, hitting the back of his head on
the floor. He immediately departed for the locker room and
received 12 stitches before returning to the contest with 7:22
"I didn't think it was that bad at first," Garnett said. "Wang
shot the three and I was just trying to be aggressive. I hit my
back, my elbow and my head. I could move my neck and mouth. I
could see and hear. I had my wits about me. It wasn't like I
couldn't remember my name or anything."
With Garnett out of the game, the high-powered Mavs climbed
back into it with some unlikely help from 7-6 Shawn Bradley
who has been a disappointment this season.
Bradley scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and
his basket with 7:05 to play pulled Dallas within 103-98.
Nowitzki made 11-of-18 shots for Dallas, which shot 51 percent
(40-of-79), including 11-of-21 from 3-point range.