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Garnett posts another monster effort

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Still stewing over a one-point loss two days
ago, the Minnesota Timberwolves finally found a way to start
strong.

Kevin Garnett finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds for the
Timberwolves, who led the entire game in a 96-84 victory over the
Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.

"That's what a loss did to us," Garnett said. "We had to
reevaluate ourselves. It made us more hungry."

Garnett set the tone for this one with 14 points and nine
rebounds in the opening period, and the Timberwolves built a lead
as big as 17 in the first half.

Helping Minnesota make up for Sunday's 99-98 defeat to Memphis
in which Mark Madsen missed the potential game-winning layup at the
buzzer, Garnett had his fifth 30-point performance in six February
games and Gary Trent scored 15 points.

"Our team just keeps our composure," said Sam Cassell, who had
eight points and 12 assists after going scoreless for the first
27-plus minutes.

Corey Maggette had a season-high 34 points for the Clippers, who
lost their third straight. Elton Brand added 12 points.

This was the fifth of a six-game road trip that takes the
Clippers up to the All-Star break, and they emerged quite
sluggishly.

Was it fatigue?

"No, I'm not going to say that," Maggette said. "We have to
be grown up about this. We're well-conditioned for this."

Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders put his team through an
intense, training camp-style practice on Monday as the team tried
to make amends for the disappointing loss to Memphis. And on
Tuesday they seemed in complete control, as opposed to the familiar
sight of struggling through one of the first two periods and
playing a frantic game of catch-up.

"We had pretty good control, but strange things happen,"
Saunders said. "They play hard. They're extremely talented. Now
you've got to give Mike (Dunleavy) a chance to work with those guys
and blend them into something."

The Wolves, at least temporarily, bucked their bad habit of
starting slowly and opened an 11-2 lead. Garnett highlighted a
brief sequence in the first quarter when he blocked Chris Kaman's
shot and posted the rookie up hard on the other end. Sam Cassell
threw the ball inside and yelled "Go to work!" as Garnett dropped
in a soft hook from the lane.

Los Angeles hung around and cut the lead to 78-71 on a layup by
Chris Wilcox with 9:46 remaining. But the reason the Clippers
couldn't get closer -- and the reason they faced a deficit of seven
points or more for all but the first three minutes of the game --
was defense.

Allowing more than 98 points per game, fourth-worst in the NBA,
Los Angeles let Minnesota work its motion offense just about any
way it wanted. The Wolves, who constantly had open looks, would've
scored a lot more were it not for a cold shooting spell late in the
third quarter and early in the fourth.

Fred Hoiberg added seven points and a career-high 12 rebounds,
and Latrell Sprewell -- held to four points Sunday -- scored 17.

But it all goes back to Garnett.

"He's about the toughest coverage in the league," Clippers
coach Mike Dunleavy said.

Saunders was pleased, as usual.

"You're always concerned when a guy is scoring that he'll go
searching for something, but he didn't do that," he said. "He
took what they gave him."

Game notes
Quentin Richardson, scoreless in the first half for the
Clippers, bruised his thigh and was replaced in the lineup after
halftime by Doug Overton -- who didn't play at all in the first two
quarters. "I tried to go back in, but it was too tight,"
Richardson said. "I'll get it treated and we'll see." ...
Minnesota (Garnett and Cassell) and Los Angeles (Brand and
Maggette) are two of three teams in the league with two players
averaging 20 points or more per game. Portland became the third
Monday night by acquiring Shareef Abdur-Rahim to accompany Zach
Randolph.

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