MINNEAPOLIS, March 31 (Ticker) --
Winning at the Target Center is not as easy as it used to be for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Kevin Garnett had 23 points and 22 rebounds and Chauncey Billups scored 15 points as the Timberwolves overcame a cold-shooting fourth quarter and held on for an 86-85 victory over the New Jersey Nets.
Minnesota won 21 of its first 24 games at the Target Center this season but hardly have been dominant at home in recent
weeks. The Wolves won just one of their first eight home games in March, but edged Dallas for a two-point victory on Thursday before hanging on against New Jersey.
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Kevin Garnett and Robert Pack celebrate as the clock strikes zero.
"We're getting in a little rhythm down the stretch," Garnett said after the victories over the Mavs and Nets, two of the NBA's best teams. "We're all on the same page and all out there communicating. It's put us back on track. It's what has helped us the last three games."
The Timberwolves had a 57-38 cushion at halftime Sunday and led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter. They had a 77-62 edge entering the fourth quarter, which the Nets began with 10 consecutive points.
Reserve Lucious Harris scored 11 of his 17 points in the final
period and brought New Jersey within 84-81 on a jumper with 4:07 left.
"My bench did a heck of a job getting us back in the game," New Jersey coach Byron Scott said. "But my starters played poorly, bottom line. Our bench was great. They came out with a lot of energy and we got back into the game."
Jason Kidd followed with two free throws 2:38 later before Billups sank a pair to restore the lead with 66 seconds to go.
Kidd buried a jumper at 53 seconds to bring New Jersey within one, 86-85. Billups tried to respond, but misfired on two jumpers during Minnesota's next possession.
The Nets regained possession with six seconds remaining and inbounded to Kidd, who drove to the left side. He pump-faked to elude Billups, but was forced to take a 10-foot jumper with his left hand as Sam Mitchell provided help defense.
Kidd missed the jumper long and Garnett grabbed his 16th defensive rebound as time expired.
"Sam made a great play on that final play," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "He came all the way over from the weak side to contest Jason's shot. That's why we have him in there -- to make those plays."
"We knew Jason Kidd was going to shoot the ball," Mitchell said. "We knew he wasn't going to pass. I just came over to
give Chauncey some help."
Rasho Nesterovic had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the
Timberwolves, who scored a franchise-low nine points in the fourth quarter. They had 29 points in the second half after
scoring 29 in the second quarter.
"I was kind of upset that we had only scored nine points in the fourth quarter," Garnett said. "But we won the game, and that's the only thing that matters."
Minnesota shot just 44 percent (31-of-74) but held a 47-36 rebounding advantage.
Todd MacCulloch scored 13 points and Kidd collected nine and 10
assists for New Jersey, which has lost 10 of its last 12 road games.
Kenyon Martin scored 12 points and Keith Van Horn and Kerry Kittles added 10 apiece. Kittles and Martin combined to make
just 8-of-26 shots for the Nets, who shot 42 percent (31-of-74) from the floor but made 19-of-21 free throws.
Garnett collected 12 points and nine rebounds in the first quarter as Minnesota shot 57 percent (13-of-23) and jumped out
to a 28-17 lead.
The Timberwolves had a 34-27 lead with 7:31 left in the second quarter before reeling off 15 of the next 17 points. Gary Trent scored the first four points of the run and Garnett capped it with a dunk for a 49-29 cushion with 2:54 to go.
"I don't know where our heads were at the beginning of the game, but it wasn't here and it showed," Scott said. "When you
let a team like that get going, they're tough to beat."
"The starters have to pick it up," Kidd said. "We can't keep digging ourselves these holes and rely on the bench to bail us out. We have to take some pride."
Minnesota had its largest lead, 59-38 after Nesterovic opened the second half with a layup and matched it on a jumper by
Garnett with 9:44 left.
Martin scored the final eight points of a 13-3 run and buried a hook shot to bring the Nets within 70-60 with 2:51 in the third quarter.
The Timberwolves built a 15-point lead entering the fourth quarter but made just 3-of-17 shots in the final 12 minutes.