Szczerbiak Scores 30 as Wolves Top Sonics
Minnesota 108, Seattle 95
MINNEAPOLIS, Dec. 28 (Ticker) -- Whenever the Seattle SuperSonics showed signs of making the game close, Wally Szczerbiak dashed their hopes.
Szczerbiak scored 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter and Kevin Garnett added 26 with 10 rebounds to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 108-95 triumph over the SuperSonics.
"(The transition game) was a big point of emphasis," Szczerbiak said. "The game is a lot easier when you can get the ball up the floor. Kevin can post up lower and dosen't have to deal with double teams and we can make plays much quicker. You can react, play the game and have fun."
"I think that Wally and Kevin are playing at an All-Star level right now," Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey said. "I hope everyone is taking notice that they are playing solid basketball at both ends of the floor."
Minnesota used an 18-2 run bridging the first and second quarters for a 38-17 edge. Szczerbiak opened the burst with a three-point play and started the second period with back-to-back jumpers.
"We came out a little flat and didn't play a good ballgame," Seattle coach Bob Weiss said. "We couldn't handle the ball. We couldn't shoot the ball. Our mental focus didn't seem to be there. We were very porous defensively."
Danny Fortson scored six points and Rashard Lewis had five in the second quarter as Seattle cut its deficit to 51-41 at halftime.
However, Minnesota opened the third quarter with a 25-11 spurt to expand the margin to 76-52. Eddie Griffin scored 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and Garnett added seven in the run.
The SuperSonics moved within 80-72 when Damien Wilkins made a three-point play with 8:45 to go. Ray Allen stole the ball on the Timberwolves' ensuing possession, but Fortson was called for an offensive foul for swinging his elbows and was ejected for arguing later in the period.
"The big thing was we kept battling back," Weiss said. "We came back from 24 (points) down. We cut it to eight and get a big stop and they call Danny for throwing elbows. I thought that was a big play. We had a couple like that, where we'd just be on the verge of cracking it and making it a really tight game."
Minnesota then pulled away with an 11-2 burst in less than two minutes. Garnett had a dunk, Szczerbiak scored five points and Griffin made a three-point play for a 91-74 edge with 6:31 to go.
"Wally (has) been aggressive these last couple of games," Garnett said. "He didn't start the year like he wanted to, but he's found the rhythm and he's stayed in the rhythm. Come fourth quarter, he's being a lot more aggressive in looking for his shot and he's hitting."
Making his first start in 96 games for Minnesota, Griffin scored a season-high 22 points with 12 rebounds. Marko Jaric had 10 assists for the Timberwolves, who shot 58 percent (43-of-74) from the floor.
"(Griffin) got a little juiced up being in the starting lineup (for the injured Michael Olowokandi)," Casey said. "I'm not just looking at the 22 points. It was the activity, the energy and the focus. All the little things. That's what we saw tonight."
"They've been preaching that they need somebody else to step up and Eddie decided to make it his night," Weiss said. "He played a great basketball game."
Allen scored 20 points, Wilkins came off the bench to add 15 and Reggie Evans 15 and 15 rebounds for Seattle, which had a 45-32 rebounding edge.
"We were always on the verge of making a run but we'd shoot ourselves in the foot," Allen said. "One stat that stuck out in the second quarter was that we had one assist. We weren't sharing the ball. We had 13 or 14 assists (actually 14) and they had 31. I'll take a team that has 31 assists any day."