Indiana 106, Minnesota 95

MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 23 (AP) -- Danny Granger broke out of a preseason-long shooting slump, scoring 20 of his 25 points in the first half to help Indiana to a 106-95 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday night in the Timberwolves' first home game since trading Kevin Garnett.

Granger entered the game shooting just 33 percent in five preseason games, but was 8-of-14 against the Wolves. Indiana is going to need Granger's shooting touch if the once-proud franchise hopes to return to the playoffs this season.

Ike Diogu had 20 points and nine rebounds, and Mike Dunleavy added 20 points for Indiana.

Al Jefferson, the lynch pin of the 7-for-1 mega deal that sent Garnett to Boston this summer, had a KG-like performance in his first appearance in front of the hometown crowd.

He had 27 points and 17 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were just happy to be home after spending the first month of the preseason as NBA vagabonds.

The Timberwolves spent the first 2 1/2 weeks of training camp in Europe, then returned home only to be shipped right back on the road for two more preseason games.

"It seems like a lot longer than however long it has been,'' weary Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said. "If feels good to get back home and get our legs underneath us.''

It was a startling scene at Target Center, an arena where for the last 12 seasons one couldn't walk five feet without running into some likeness of Garnett on an advertisement, plaque or video screen.

All those images have been wiped clean as the team tries to move forward with a group of nine players under the age of 26 in place of the biggest star the team has ever known.

The fans who showed up got a preview of what this season could look like. The young Wolves started off strong, out-hustling the Pacers and attacking the offensive glass in the first quarter.

Once the initial burst of energy wore off, however, the Pacers took control. They took advantage of poor perimeter defense to hit six of their first eight 3-pointers and forced the frustrated Wolves to jack up hurried shots and give up on plays too early.

Minnesota certainly could have used point guards Randy Foye and Sebastian Telfair, who have missed the majority of the preseason with injuries.

Rashad McCants (knee) and Mark Madsen (shoulder) also missed the game.

The Pacers are dealing with plenty of injuries of their own. Jermaine O'Neal (knee) missed his third straight game and David Harrison (ankle) and Troy Murphy (Achilles') also did not play.

Granger certainly did, showing flashes of the talent and versatility that made Larry Bird so high on him when he was drafted in the first round in 2005.

He scored from inside and out, got to the line and added three rebounds and three assists in a complete performance.


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