Timberwolves Sweat It Out, Edge Pacers
Minnesota 90, Indiana 85
MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 20 (Ticker) -- Wally Szczerbiak and the Minnesota Timberwolves almost let the shorthanded Indiana Pacers steal one.
Szczerbiak scored 20 points and Kevin Garnett and Eddie Griffin added 17 apiece as the Wolves survived a wild ending for a 90-85 victory over the Pacers, who battled to the final buzzer without leading scorer Jermaine O'Neal.
After being down the majority of the game and playing without O'Neal -- the team's leading scorer and rebounder who missed his third game with a sprained left ankle -- the Pacers whittled away a 13-point deficit with 5:38 left and had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds.
Indiana trailed, 84-76, with 24 seconds to go when rookie Sarunas Jasikevicius drained a 3-pointer from the corner. Minnesota's Marko Jaric made two free throws, but Anthony Johnson nailed a difficult 3-pointer to pull Indiana within 86-82 with 18 seconds remaining.
Szczerbiak sank two foul shots before Austin Croshere dunked and drew a bad foul from Griffin. Croshere's free throw made it 88-85 with 13 seconds left.
Griffin fumbled the ensuing inbounds pass and Pacers rookie Danny Granger came up with a steal. With just three seconds left, Fred Jones hesitated on his first look from long range, then missed the 3-pointer. Griffin, who also had 14 rebounds and six blocks, redeemed himself by netting two foul shots with 1.6 seconds remaining, sealing Minnesota's fourth win in its last five games.
"(Griffin) really responded and muscled up and did a great job in the paint," Minnesota coach Dwane Casey said. "I was really proud of the way he played."
Jaric collected 13 points, 10 boards and seven assists and Trenton Hassell added 10 and seven assists for Minnesota, which survived eight turnovers in the fourth quarter and improved to 5-0 at home against the Eastern Conference.
"Some of the shots we take in the fourth quarter are perimeter shots and I do know that if you get the ball inside, you can get easy shots," Garnett said. "For some reason, we don't want to do that and we make it difficult on ourselves sometimes."
Jones scored 19 points and Croshere added 18 for Indiana, which shot just 33 percent (14-of-42) in the first half.
In just their second win against the Pacers in eight meetings, the Timberwolves raced to a 28-17 lead after the opening period thanks to 75 percent (12-of-16) shooting.