MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves have spent a lot
of time talking about becoming a defensive team. Now they're
starting to play like one.
"That's all we've talked about is defense, defense, defense,"
Timberwolves guard Troy Hudson said. "Now we're coming out and
backing up our talk."
Bryant entered the night averaging nearly 37 points a game and
was coming off consecutive 37-point outings. He finished with 28
points on 12-of-26 shooting, but was a non-factor in the fourth
quarter thanks to a stingy zone defense employed by new coach Dwane
As soon as he was hired, Casey started stressing team defense to
a group that basically considered it an afterthought in 10 years
under Flip Saunders. At least early in the season, the Timberwolves
seem to be embracing the new identity.
They held the Lakers to 32 percent shooting and 29 points in the
second half. Lakers' point guard Smush Parker, who had been
averaging over 17 points a game, was held scoreless and Lamar Odom
added 15 points and six rebounds before fouling out.
"They're focusing on defense," Odom said. "You can tell."
Bryant seemed to get frustrated with his lack of involvement in
the fourth, hoisting a few wild shots that weren't even close and
losing the ball on a pair of reckless drives to the basket. He also
missed two free throws down the stretch and was 0-for-5 from the
field in the period.
"We had mental lapses in the fourth quarter," Bryant said.
"It comes from us not playing together for a long time. It comes
Bryant's struggles allowed the Timberwolves to overcome a
1-for-10 start to the quarter and seal the win with an 8-0 run that
pushed the lead to 82-69 with under 3 minutes to play.
Eddie Griffin, who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds,
capped the run with a jumper from the baseline and headlined an
impressive performance by the Wolves' reserves.
Minnesota's subs outscored their Los Angeles counterparts 36-19
to overshadow a rough shooting day from their top two scorers.
Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak combined to shoot 12-for-28, but
Trenton Hassell scored 14 points and harassed Bryant on defense,
and Hudson added 10 points and six assists off the bench to get the
Timberwolves their second win in a row.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson was upset with a few early foul calls
on center Chris Mihm that he says took them out of their game plan.
"When you start out a ball game and the first thing they do is
call an offensive foul on him for a nonexistent foul, you know the
kid doesn't have a chance out there playing," Jackson said. "The
referees just give him nothing. It's embarrassing."
One night after shooting 52 percent in victory over Atlanta, the
Lakers hit their first four shots to jump out to an 11-2 lead. They
led by as many as 10 in the first half before Casey went with a
smaller lineup that sparked the Wolves.
Hudson sparked a 14-3 run and Garnett's tip dunk gave the Wolves
a 37-36 lead, their first advantage since 2-0.
Bryant was 8-for-13 for 18 points in the first half, but was
slow out of the gates in the third quarter.
He managed just two points in the first 10 minutes of the period
before finishing with six straight.
"We wanted him to see five white jerseys every time he touched
the ball," Hudson said. "We have trust in each other."
Casey deemed the fourth quarter the team's best defensive period
of this young season, and smiled as he watched his team collapse on
Bryant every time he drove to the basket.
"We made stands," Casey said proudly. "We're doing a much
better job picking it up defensively."
Casey will leave Minneapolis on Thursday to be with his
family for funeral services for his father. He will rejoin the team
at Denver on Sunday. ... Lakers coach Phil Jackson said before the
game that he was a candidate for the Timberwolves' coaching job
when the NBA expanded here in 1988. Jackson never interviewed and
instead took over in Chicago in 1989 and went on to win six titles
with Bulls. "I was lucky I wasn't chosen," he said.