|New York @ Minnesota|
|89 - 107|
Getting some shots to fall for once, the Wolves used 21 points from Ricky Davis and put together their most complete performance of the season to beat the New York Knicks 107-89 on Wednesday night.
"It always feels great when you work on things to finally start putting it together. Hopefully we can carry this over," said Mike James , who scored 16 points.
Nothing the Knicks have been working on came together. They failed to take advantage of Minnesota's recently vulnerable transition defense and had only four fast-break points, an awful total for a guard-centric team that is geared to run.
Steve Francis , replaced in the starting lineup by Jamal Crawford , came off the bench to score 19 points, but there was nothing to smile about afterward in a subdued New York locker room.
"We were bad all the way around," coach Isiah Thomas said, before cutting short his interview session.
The perpetual search for second and third options to complement Garnett has been a major part of Timberwolves history, and with only one advancement past the first round of the playoffs it's obvious the quest has been mostly unsuccessful.
With Davis and James, there is potential, though, as they proved in this game.
"It's what we need," Garnett said.
There was more. Mark Blount had a season-high 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting, reserve Marko Jaric chipped in 10 points, and Minnesota shot a season-best 52.8 percent from the field while owning a 26-10 assists advantage.
The Wolves, who ranked third-to-last in the league in scoring coming into the game, have topped 100 points only three times this season and - surprise! - have won all of those contests.
Most satisfying, though, was that transition defense after the Wolves let the Hornets score 41 points on the fast break last Saturday. Chris Paul was way too much for Minnesota to handle, but the Wolves have another crack at him on Friday in Oklahoma City.
The key to Minnesota's offensive success - beside using Garnett's all-around skills - is hitting the open jump shots when they're there. And the Wolves got key makes by just about everyone, including their new point guard, James, who has not produced offensively so far like he or the team has hoped.
The Knicks threatened midway through the third quarter, a 9-0 run that cut the lead to 64-49 with 6 1/2 minutes left. But James stopped that with a driving layup and sank a pair of 3-pointers over the balance of the period to give his team some more space.
"It was definitely important, especially with trying to give Kevin help," James said. "You know he can't do it all by himself."
New York fell behind 29-10 and never got closer than 12 points after the first quarter. Crawford scored 19, and Stephon Marbury added 18, but the Knicks - according to Thomas - didn't play as a team on either end of the court in their most disappointing performance to date.
"When you lose like this, you can point to everybody," he said.
Searching for a spark, not only for the team but for the struggling Francis, Thomas sent the three-time All-Star to the bench and summoned leading scorer Crawford to start.
"I'm willing to do what it takes to help the team. I don't want to make a big issue out of it. We just need to play better as a team," said Francis, who repeatedly downplayed the significance of his new role.
"It might not help us tonight, but hopefully it helps us in the long run."
Quentin Richardson was scoreless without attempting a shot in 18 minutes for New York. "I just didn't have any open looks," he said ... In light of New York's lineup change, Minnesota coach Dwane Casey was asked before the game if he'd consider the same kind of shakeup. Defensive stopper Trenton Hassell would be the most likely candidate to become a reserve. But Casey said he wouldn't, and that reallocations of playing time within his rotation were a more comfortable method for him. ... The Knicks are 0-8 when scoring fewer than 100 points.