MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Kevin Garnett has been Minnesota's go-to guy
Wally Szczerbiak wants in.
"I think I've really earned the right to become a big-time
shooter and a big-time scorer in this league," Szczerbiak said
after scoring 16 of his 20 points in the first half of Minnesota's
108-83 victory over Seattle on Tuesday night.
"I've been begging for this opportunity," he said. "I've
worked hard for three years. With the percentage I shot in my first
two years, I think that really warrants me stepping up this year."
Garnett had 21 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists to help the
Timberwolves improve to 7-1 at home and end a three-game skid. But
14 of those points came in the second half -- many on layups -- as
Garnett continued to struggle from the field.
After shooting 12-for-36 in back-to-back losses last week in Los
Angeles to the Lakers and Clippers, Garnett was 7-for-20 on
Tuesday. Szczerbiak, who entered the game seventh in the NBA in
field goal shooting at 52.8 percent, again picked up the slack.
Guarded by defensive standout Gary Payton most of the game,
Szczerbiak shot 6-for-7 in the first quarter and finished 9-for-18.
"He was extremely aggressive," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders
said. "He didn't shoot the ball as well in the second half, but he
made some passes to get other guys some looks. He's really
solidified himself as a premier perimeter player in this league."
Rashard Lewis had 17 points for Seattle, which never led. The
SuperSonics dropped their third straight on the road. Coach Nate
McMillan was disgusted by his team's effort.
"You're called a professional for a reason," McMillan said.
"You're supposed to go out and give an effort every night. This
shouldn't happen with professional athletes. It's been that way for
years here. I put it on our veterans to get things going and it
didn't happen tonight."
Payton, who had 15 points, showed some compassion for his
"Coach has got his opinion on things, and that's why he's
running the team," Payton said. "But I'm not going to get into
that. I'm not going to downgrade my teammates. It's hard to relate
to 22- and 23-year-olds who are used to playing 30 games a year.
When they get tired mentally, and can't get into it, you can't get
mad at them, because that just discourages them more. It's just
The Timberwolves built a 19-point advantage on a tip-in by Rasho
Nesterovic with 2:57 left in the first half. The Sonics quickly
sliced that lead to 53-45 with 11 straight points -- nine of them on
3-pointers by Lewis, Vladimir Radmanovic and Brent Barry.
Minnesota stretched the lead to 58-47 after Smith's three-point
play just before halftime.
The Sonics came within nine when Szczerbiak was called for
goaltending on Payton's driving layup late in the third, but
Terrell Brandon's jumper beat the buzzer at the end of the quarter
and bumped the lead up to 82-68.
Chauncey Billups, whose 3-pointer with 56 seconds gave Minnesota
its biggest lead at 108-83, added 16 points off the bench.
The Sonics placed G Desmond Mason on the injured list
Tuesday because of a sprained right knee and went with 11 active
players. Mason, averaging 13.6 points per game, was injured in
Seattle's game Sunday against Milwaukee. "We'll miss his energy,"
McMillan said before the game. Radmanovic, forward Art Long and
guard Shammond Williams will likely see more playing time in
Mason's absence. ... Minnesota has won six straight at Target
Center against Seattle yet still trails the all-time series 37-12.
... Eight of the Sonics' last 11 losses have been by more than 10
points. ... Minnesota is still off to the best start in franchise
history at 11-5.