MINNEAPOLIS, April 3 (Ticker) -- Chauncey Billups
recorded his first
career triple-double as the Minnesota Timberwolves clinched a
playoff berth with a 92-81 triumph over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Billups had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists as the
Timberwolves overcame poor shooting by All-Stars Kevin Garnett
and Wally Szczerbiak
to sweep the Grizzlies for the second time
in three seasons.
Garnett had 18 points and 17 rebounds but sank just 6-of-22
attempts. Szczerbiak tallied 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
"I felt like I should be a lot more aggressive trying to score
tonight, especially with those guys couldn't get off early,"
Billups said. "I said that I know I can score and get a shot
off anytime I wanted, so I just tried to be aggressive and run
some plays, and started knocking down shots."
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Kevin Garnett almost matched the triple-double of his teammate, finishing just two assists shy of a huge one.
"Chauncey played really well," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders
said. "He had some turnovers early, but he shot the ball really
well, rebounded the ball and passed the ball really well. It
was a good all-around game for him."
Minnesota held a 70-57 advantage entering the fourth quarter,
but Memphis climbed within 78-74 on a pair of free throws by
rookie Pau Gasol
with 4:02 remaining. Garnett hit 1-of-2 free
throws, Szczerbiak added a 3-pointer and a layup and the
Timberwolves were not threatened thereafter.
"We've just got to make sure we keep picking each other up,"
Szczerbiak said. "Teams are going to make runs. We're getting
better at not putting our heads between our legs and letting it
get to us. When they make a run, we need them back on their
heels and make a few plays, whether it's on the defensive or
Gasol registered 18 points and 11 rebounds, Jason Williams
scored 17 points and Stromile Swift
added 16 for the Grizzlies,
who limited the Timberwolves to just 40 percent (36-of-90) from
the floor but could only connect on 37 percent (31-of-84).
"We've got a young team, and we need to learn how to execute
down the stretch," Memphis coach Sidney Lowe said. "But we'll
be OK. ... You don't get Garnett on an off night too often, but
they got other guys to step up. Billups had the hot hand, and
we got caught on a couple of their pick-and-rolls where we
didn't get out on Chauncey -- and he hurt us."
The Grizzlies never led but rallied from a 32-22 deficit to tie
the game at 38-38 on a layup by Williams with 3:32 left in the
first half. Billups hit a free throw with 1:25 remaining to
give the Timberwolves the lead for good at 39-38, and Minnesota
took a 45-40 edge into halftime.
The victory was the Timberwolves' fourth in a row overall and
13th in 14 games at the Target Center against the Grizzlies.
"We lost a few games, but now we've won four in a row and we
have to make sure it feels like we've won four in a row,"
Szczerbiak said. "Maybe we're not doing it the most perfect
way, but why be negative about wins?"
It is the sixth consecutive year that the Timberwolves have
qualified for the playoffs. They have yet to win a first-round
"I think the Wolves can win in the first round," said Lowe, who
coached Minnesota during its lean days. "I think they've been
through a losing streak, and now they've bounced back. They've
been there before, they're more mature. But again, the Western
Conference is so tough. I said that they can win, not that they