Szczerbiak followed his buzzer-beating performance a month ago
by scoring eight straight points during a tense stretch in the
fourth quarter, helping the Minnesota Timberwolves cap a rough road
trip with an impressive 92-83 victory Monday night.
Despite playing their fifth game in seven nights -- all on the
road against possible Western Conference playoff teams -- Minnesota
held the league's highest-scoring team to its worst point totals
after one, two and three quarters.
And when Dallas did finally get rolling and turned an 18-point
deficit into a tie game, Szczerbiak personally prevented the Mavs
from getting ahead and the Timberwolves pulled away again. After
losing the first three on their tough trip, they head home on a
two-game winning streak.
"When we're aggressive, we can beat anybody," said Garnett,
who had 31 points, 18 rebounds and five assists one night after
recording a triple-double after three quarters. "These last two
games we had to have, and we did everything we had to do to win."
Szczerbiak had protected the lead with a jumper in the lane
between Dallas' 3s, then he put Minnesota back ahead with a 3 of
Finley got Dallas within one with a nice layup off an inbounds
pass, but Szczerbiak drilled another 3-pointer and the Timberwolves
took off from there.
"I just remember hitting a bunch of shots at the end,"
Szczerbiak said, unable to recall the particulars. "I was so
Dallas, which had won four straight and 10 of 12, took a
season-high 103 shots, making a season-low 32 percent. The Mavs
missed their first nine field goals and their first 11 3-pointers.
They were trailing 12-2 midway through the first quarter and were
down 51-33 early in third.
The only thing that kept Dallas in the game was rebounding,
which is usually its biggest weakness. The Mavs had 60 boards,
including 30 on the offensive end. Then again, they missed so many
shots someone had to grab the loose balls.
"It was a weird game," said Nowitzki, who had 37 points and 13
rebounds for his third straight 30-point game against Minnesota.
The Mavericks were playing their third game in four days, but
were more rested than the Timberwolves because they had Sunday off
and their top players didn't over-exert themselves in a lopsided
win over Utah on Saturday night.
But Dallas had more shots blocked (six) than it made (five) in
the first quarter and by halftime had just 33 points. The Mavs had
55 after three quarters, which is what they often score in a half.
They finished 29 points below their average.
"At this point in the season, we should be sharp enough to get
a better start," said Dallas' Nick Van Exel.
Finley overcame a 1-for-12 start to score 17 points and grab 13
rebounds. He finished 7-for-27 and 2-for-11 on 3-pointers.
"We didn't have any answers," said Steve Nash, who had eight
points and nine assists.
Timberwolves point guard Troy Hudson, who had 31 points in his
last game in Dallas, had nine points and 11 assists and Rasho
Nesterovic had 11 points and a career-best nine blocks.
"We have guys with a lot of heart and tonight we banded
together and said we weren't going to lose," Szczerbiak said. "We
were all helping each other out on defense."
Each team had just 12 points from its bench ... Gill, who at
6-foot-5 is 13 inches shorter than Shawn Bradley, didn't let that
stop him from a huge rejection on the Dallas center. Gill got
enough of the ball to slam it into the court, bouncing it at least
10 feet high. ... Szczerbiak got a technical foul for two
delay-of-game violations in the third quarter. Both came soon after
he was upset a flagrant foul wasn't called when Nowitzki pushed him
in the back on an open layup.