MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 4 (Ticker) -- Marko Jaric's aggressivness paid off for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Jaric scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half as the Timberwolves opened a challenging stretch with a 91-78 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

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In a pair of lopsided losses over the weekend, the Timberwolves failed to get any production from Jaric, who scored a total of 12 points on 3-of-12 shooting.

Jaric missed his first five shots and just 2-of-8 in the first half Wednesday but kept firing away. The point guard scored nine points in the third quarter as the Timberwolves turned a three-point halftime deficit into a 69-60 lead.

"It was me talking to myself, saying, 'Marko, this team needs a point guard out there,'" Jaric said. "So I stepped up and tried to play very hard and give a boost to the guys, and everybody responded very well."

"Marko was aggressive tonight," Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett said. "It was the first night when we didn't have to say much to him. I think he came here with a little chip on his shoulder, some kind of edge with him."

A runner by Jaric capped a 9-0 burst and pushed the advantage to 78-62 with 8:28 remaining. The native of Serbia & Montenegro attempted a season-high 19 shots, making nine.

"Jaric was tremendous," Timberwolves forward Wally Sczcerbiak said. "When he focuses and doesn't let things affect him and continues to play aggressively throughout the whole game, he makes our team so much better.

"He just needs to relax. He's a high-strung guy, he's got to channel that energy in a positive way and can't get down on himself. You're going to have bad games in this league, you just got to come back the next night and do what the team needs to win."

Garnett also was big in the third quarter for Timberwolves, scoring 10 of his 23 points. The superstar forward also grabbed 10 rebounds.

"(At the half) I told my teammates to follow my lead (in the second half)," Garnett said. "Come out and be aggressive. In the Miaimi game, I wasn't aggressive like I want to be. Tonight I wanted to get into the flow of things and set the tone for our team and let the other team know that we're here to win. Everything starts with me. That's go to be a mind-set for me."

After shooting just 40.5 percent (15-of-37) in the first half, the Timberwolves made 10 of their first 13 shots in the third quarter, when they took the lead for good.

"In the second half, we didn't play well offensively and couldn't get into a good posture defensively either," Dallas guard Jerry Stackhouse said. "They got their confidence and we started pressing a bit. They escalated and we went on a downslide."

Minnesota coach Dwane Casey's emphasis on defense paid dividends as his team held Dallas to its lowest total of the season.

"We take a lot of pride in our defense," Szczerbiak said. "Having Kandi (Michael Olowokandi) in the paint as an anchor was huge and we kept them off the 3-point line. That was big."

"They're playing great defense," Mavs forward Josh Howard. "They're scouting every play we've carved out. You can hear their bench yelling out the play and what's going to happen."

Dallas coach Avery Johnson refused to use playing the second of back-to-back games as an excuse.

"If the commissioner changed the schedule and you had to play three or four games in a row, championship teams still find a way to win," Johnson said. "So we don't use tired as an excuse. We didn't deserve to win. We weren't very efficient offensively. And give their defense credit. They did a good job of limiting Dirk and Josh's looks late in the game. They have a lot of pride in their locker room."

Szczerbiak added 20 points for the Timberwolves, who were opening a stretch of three straight games against the Western Conference's top two teams. They play at San Antonio on Friday before visiting Dallas on Saturday.

"Important win, knowing that we lost eight of that last 10 games we played," Jaric said. "We've got a couple of tough games on the road coming up, so definitely this was a must-win."

Dirk Nowitzki scored 23 points to pace Dallas, which shot just 37 percent (29-of-78) and lost for just the fourth time in its last 17 games. The 7-foot superstar went 6-of-6 at the free-throw line, extending his team-record streak of consecutive makes to 56.

"I'm trying to stress to my team that we're on the radar now," Johnson said. "There's no hiding now. People know who Marquis Daniels and Josh Howard are. So we got to come out ready to play. You gotta find ways to get the job done.

"We're on the radar, that means we always got to be on the top of our game. We've been doing pretty good on the road, so teams aren't going to let us come into their buildings and roll over, 'cause we're the big bad Mavericks now."