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Weary T-Wolves not sharp in win over Nuggets

1/14/2003

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Anthony Peeler gave his season and his team a little resuscitation.

Peeler scored 20 points off the bench and Kevin Garnett added 14
points and 15 rebounds as the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Denver Nuggets 89-75 Monday night.

Peeler had shot just 27.5 percent and averaged 4.1 points in his
previous 11 games. His strong performance helped lift the
Timberwolves, who followed a disappointing loss at Toronto on
Sunday with a terrible start against the Nuggets.

"He's just been a non-entity with this team when I've watched.
We just haven't utilized the guy,'' said Wally Szczerbiak, who
scored 10 points in 21 minutes in his third game back from a toe
injury that cost him 30 games.

Peeler, who left the locker room before the media was allowed
in, also had six assists.

"You give him the ball, he's going to make plays,'' said
teammate Rod Strickland, forced to play a season-high 38 minutes
when starting point guard Troy Hudson sprained his left ankle on
Minnesota's first possession.

Juwan Howard had 19 points and eight rebounds, Ryan Bowen had 14
points and nine rebounds and Junior Harrington added 12 points and
eight assists for Denver, which led by as many as 15 points in the
first quarter.

"We jumped on them without Hudson,'' Bowen said. "They were
too tough down the stretch.''

Playing on consecutive days, the Timberwolves played poorly -- in
the beginning, at least -- against another of the league's worst
teams. The Raptors ended a 12-game losing streak with a 105-91 win
over the Wolves in Canada, and the Nuggets exploited a hapless
effort by Minnesota in the game's first nine minutes Monday night.

Without Hudson, the Timberwolves had only two points in the
first five minutes and fell behind 21-6.

"This team is getting better,'' Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said,
"but tonight it was just in spurts. We're young, but I'm going to
put pressure on those young guys to get better.''

Minnesota (20-17), which leads the Los Angeles Lakers by three
games for the Western Conference's No. 8 playoff spot, didn't take
long to close the gap, though. The Wolves grabbed their first lead
midway through the second period.

"That's back-to-back games,'' Szczerbiak said. "Sometimes you
come out a little flat.''

The rest of the game was ragged at best, as players tripped over
teammates, threw errant passes, missed short shots and complained
about questionable calls by the officials. A few fans among the
hushed, season-low crowd of 13,009 tried to keep themselves
entertained by harassing Howard.

"Juwan, you can't hold K.G.,'' said one of them.

"He can't hold me, either,'' Howard fired back.

Howard hit a one-handed 3-pointer near halfcourt at the buzzer
before halftime, and the Nuggets built a third-period lead as big
as 10 points.

Fortunately for the Wolves, Peeler helped bring them back. Joe
Smith started, but Minnesota's bigger lineup had trouble defending
Denver's frontcourt early, and Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders
decided to go small.

Smith finished with only two points in 10 minutes, and
Minnesota's bench wound up with 61 points to Denver's 19.

The Timberwolves bridged the third and fourth quarters with a
12-2 run that put them up 77-67. Denver didn't get any closer than
six after that.

"He couldn't have brought it any better time,'' Garnett said of
Peeler. "I got in his ear and told him, 'You've got to shoot the
ball.'''

Game notes
Denver F Donnell Harvey, who missed the last two games with
a sprained ankle, returned to score three points in seven minutes.
... The Wolves continue to bring Szczerbiak back slowly from his
toe injury. He scored 10 points in 21 minutes off the bench. ...
Denver's Mark Blount surpassed his scoring average (5.6) in less
than nine minutes. He finished with 10 points.