KG nears triple-double as Wolves hand Clips first loss

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves were simply way too easy to score against last season, and new coach Dwane Casey is determined to reverse that trend.

Kevin Garnett had 22 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to lead the defensive-minded Timberwolves past the Los Angeles Clippers 93-78 on Monday night.

Facing former teammate Sam Cassell for the second time in three nights, Garnett made up for Saturday's loss with one of his vintage all-around games. He had missed a jump shot in the lane in the closing seconds of overtime during the 100-99 defeat in Los Angeles.

"Kevin Garnett is a beast, man," Cassell said. "I want all the good that comes to him."

Elton Brand had 26 points and eight rebounds to overshadow Cassell (11 points on 3-for-10 shooting) in his first appearance in Minnesota since the August trade that sent him to California for Marko Jaric.

That wasn't enough for the Clippers, who became the last Western Conference team to lose after a 3-0 start that was their best since 1985.

"We've just got to move the ball a little better," forward Quinton Ross said. "We took some bad shots."

Thank the Wolves for some of that. With Trenton Hassell keeping Cassell quiet and a pesky zone holding Brand to four points in the pivotal third quarter, Minnesota did just what Casey wants.

"We got people off their sweet spot," Casey said.

Michael Olowokandi had 10 points for the Timberwolves against the team that made him the first overall pick in the 1998 draft, and teammate Wally Szczerbiak scored 15.

Brand tied the game at 44 with a short jumper and then gave Los Angeles the lead for the first time on a free throw with 56 seconds left before the half.

But Minnesota broke away in the third, holding the Clippers to a season-low 12 points and showcasing the style that Casey has tried to instill -- push the ball up the court as much as possible and play smart, relentless defense on the other end.

"That goal is our home, and we want to make sure we protect it," Casey said. "Sometimes, you won't be able to hit the broad side of a barn with a bass fiddle, but defensively the effort can be there."

Garnett fed Szczerbiak for two fast-break dunks, including a one-handed reverse that made it 61-55 midway through the period.

The Wolves carried that momentum into the fourth, starting with their small lineup featuring Garnett, energy man Mark Madsen and three point guards -- Jaric, Anthony Carter and Troy Hudson.

"From game to game, we're going to be reaching in that toolbox," Casey said.

Garnett sank a pair of mid-range jump shots and then two free throws for Minnesota's first six points, and Carter's layup after a botched alley-oop attempt to Garnett on a break capped an 18-4 run and gave the Wolves their biggest advantage -- 75-59 with just over nine minutes remaining.

"We didn't do nothing that we needed to do to be successful today," Cassell said.

Words like those make the Wolves smile.

"We've learned to trust each other out there," Garnett said.

Game notes
Szczerbiak hit the game's only 3-pointer -- in 24 attempts between the teams -- midway through the fourth quarter. It was also his first make from behind the arc in 13 tries this season. "The pendulum will swing," Szczerbiak said. "I've just got to keep shooting when I'm open. That's what I do." He's got the green light from the bench. "I'm going to ride with him," Casey said. ... Small forward Corey Maggette and point guard Shaun Livingston have yet to play for the Clippers this season because of a strained left hamstring and a lower back injury, respectively. ... Minnesota has beaten the Clippers seven straight times at home. ... The announced attendance was 11,791 -- the smallest regular-season crowd registered at Target Center since a Dec. 3, 1996, game against Sacramento drew 11,191.