Wolves prevent Lakers from five-game road sweep


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Chauncey Billups wasn't happy when Phil Jackson said the Timberwolves still have a look of fear when they play the world champion Los Angeles Lakers.

So the Minnesota guard made the Lakers afraid to leave him open Wednesday night.

Billups complemented Kevin Garnett's 33 points with 30 of his own, including seven straight 3-point shots that helped the Wolves beat the Lakers 112-101, moving Minnesota 21 games above .500 for the first time in franchise history.

"That's a little disrespectful for him to say that," Billups said of Jackson's comments. "This is basketball, you don't fear anybody. We respect that team, but we don't fear anyone in this league."

Billups, who also had 11 assists, nailed two big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep the Lakers from fighting their way back and extending their four-game winning streak.

With the Lakers trailing 95-86, Billups hit a 3 to give Minnesota more breathing room. Then, after Derek Fisher put in a 3 of his own to make it 100-89, Billups -- thrust back into the starting position this month when Terrell Brandon went on the injured list -- hit another 3 to cap a 14-7 run and put Minnesota up 103-89.

"I got some open looks and they went down," Billups said. "So I said, 'OK, I'm going to keep shooting."'

Shaquille O'Neal led Los Angeles with 27 points, while Kobe Bryant was held to 20. The Lakers were visibly frustrated by the Wolves' defense, which held Los Angeles to 45.8 percent from the field.

O'Neal, slapped with a technical foul for arguing with an official in the first half, was nowhere to be found for comment after the game.

"When we don't have our legs, we have to lean on our execution to get open looks," Bryant said. "We missed some open shots tonight."

Minnesota got key minutes from Wally Szczerbiak (14 points) and the newly acquired Marc Jackson, who finished with 12.

Trailing 60-47 at halftime, Los Angeles opened the second half hitting its first four 3-pointers. A 3-point basket from Lindsey Hunter lifted the Lakers to 64-61 at 8:37 in the third quarter.

But the Wolves ripped off a 19-7 run fueled by eight points from Garnett. Jackson's jumper with the shot clock winding down gave the Wolves a 83-68 lead with 3:17 left in the third quarter.

Jackson was acquired from Golden State last week. The 6-10
forward provided Minnesota a big body to put on O'Neal when Rasho
Nesterovic got into foul trouble early in the second half. His
strong inside presence forced the 7-1, 315-pound O'Neal out of his
comfort zone, causing him to miss crucial shots down the stretch.

"We missed some real easy shots, but they did a nice job on him," said Jackson, who said before the game he didn't know how Minnesota could contend with O'Neal. "We got the ball into Shaq, but he didn't always convert."

O'Neal went 8-of-19 from the field and 11-for-15 from the free-throw line.

Billups got hot early in the game. He started a 10-0 run in the first quarter with his first 3-pointer and capped the same run with a 3-pointer to put the Wolves up 21-13.

The Lakers made a charge nearing halftime, but Garnett led a
12-7 run with seven points. He closed the half with a 3-pointer to
make it 60-47.

Game notes
Garnett hit the floor hard when Devean George slammed into his back with 1:18 left. He received treatment after the game. ... The Lakers have gone 10-3 in the last 13 meetings with Minnesota, although the Wolves have won three of the last four at home. Wednesday night's win marked the first time the Wolves have won more than one game in a season against the Lakers in franchise history. ... The Lakers failed to sweep their first five-game road
trip of the season. Los Angeles has not gone undefeated on a road
trip of five or more games since the 1999-2000 season, when it
swept a six-game trip in February.