Minnesota 91, Chicago 81

Chicago, Dec. 9 (AP) -- Kevin Garnett thought about the possibility, grinned and made it clear again: He would love to play alongside Allen Iverson.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Timberwolves continued to build their case against a shakeup.

Garnett scored 18 points to help Minnesota beat Chicago 91-81 Saturday night, snapping the Bulls' seven-game winning streak.

``We're making strides,'' Garnett said. ``As a team, collectively, we're forming some chemistry. It's no definite that we'd continue to perform like this.''

Which is why he smiles at the possibility of adding another superstar.

The Timberwolves looked just fine against Chicago, building a 21-point lead in the third quarter and withstanding a push by the Bulls on the way to their fourth straight victory.

Garnett struggled from the field, hitting 6-of-19 shots after scoring a season-high 31 points in Friday's 110-103 victory over Utah. However, he had 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Ricky Davis and Mike James scored 15 points apiece, and Marko Jaric added 12 points and seven rebounds as Minnesota climbed above .500 (10-9).

Ben Gordon led Chicago with 21 points, and Andres Nocioni scored 17. Kirk Hinrich finished with 15 points - shooting 6-for-18 - and eight assists. Luol Deng had with 10 points and 10 rebounds after scoring 25 the previous night against Toronto.

The Bulls ended the third quarter on a 9-0 run to pull within 72-62, and Gordon's 3-pointer and Deng's put-back with just under 9 minutes left in the game made it 76-69. But it was not enough.

``(The Timberwolves) have made a commitment to defense,'' Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. ``We have not yet made that commitment on a consistent basis. Tonight was a perfect example and it cost us. They got the ball into Garnett, and they were cutting off him and getting layups. We were not active enough.''

The Timberwolves established the lead in the first half, built it in the third quarter, and the result was another impressive victory.

The Iverson rumor continued to swirl even though Minnesota owner Glen Taylor did his best to douse it, telling the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Saturday's editions: ``It isn't that I don't like him. Just money-wise, it wouldn't work out.''

Still, Garnett continued to make it clear that he would welcome the 76ers' banished star.

He said so after Friday's game against Northwest division leader Utah and repeated it on Saturday.

``Who would be opposed to that?'' said Garnett, whose name has also come up in trade rumors.

Garnett said he and Iverson have only played softball together, and Iverson is the better player ``by far.''

Garnett realizes major trades during the season sometimes hurt teams, destroy chemistry. And the Timberwolves appear to have that at the moment.

``All I know is that when we step on the court we've got a job to do,'' James said. ``Until things change, we've got to be big boys and we can't complain. We can't sulk.''

Deng made two free throws in the opening seconds of the third quarter to make it 53-42, but the Timberwolves scored 10 straight to stretch their lead to 21.

The Bulls, simply, were out of sync.

After back-to-back jumpers by Trenton Hassell (11 points) and Davis made it 59-42, Deng passed to Wallace, who was trying to set a pick for him and wasn't looking. The result was a turnover.

A steal by Craig Smith and fastbreak layup by Davis made it 63-42 about 5 minutes into the third, but the Bulls weren't finished. They scored the final nine points of the quarter to pull to 72-62.

``The guys showed a lot of heart tonight,'' Chicago's Ben Wallace said. ``But it's too bad, because sometimes heart isn't enough in this game.''

The Timberwolves set the tone early, outscoring the Bulls 24-17 in the first quarter. And Garnett led the way with seven points, three rebounds and three assists. Meanwhile, the rumor swirled.

``You can get caught up into it,'' James said. ``What good is it going to do if you have no control over it?''

Notes: Minnesota coach Dwane Casey had not addressed the trade rumors with his team and had no intention to do so. ``Everything is speculation, and I can't (deal) in speculation and I don't expect my players to,'' Casey said. ``I'm going to be disciplined to not even go there.'' ... F Mark Madsen did not accompany the Timberwolves and remains day to day with a partial dislocation of his right shoulder. He was injured Wednesday against Houston and missed Friday's game against Utah. ... The Bulls had won seven straight at the United Center after dropping their home-opener against Sacramento.


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