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Garnett (44 points, 11 boards) helps dismantle soaring Suns

MINNEAPOLIS -- The hard-driving Phoenix Suns had been blowing through the NBA in January, piling up points, highlights and victories at breakneck speed.

They finished the month just one win away from perfection after crashing into a 6-foot-11 road block named Kevin Garnett.

Garnett almost single-handedly snapped the Suns' 17-game winning streak, scoring 44 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in Minnesota's 121-112 victory on Monday night.

"People who say he can't carry the load, take a look at this game film," new Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said.

The All-Star forward, sometimes criticized for not coming up big in the clutch, was everywhere in the final period against the Suns, dropping turnaround jumper after turnaround jumper to give Phoenix its first loss of 2007.

He scored 15 points in the fourth, including a looping fallaway from the baseline that gave Minnesota a 118-109 lead with 1:55 to play, and put Wittman on the way to a win in his home debut.

"It's just about being a presence," Garnett said. "It's about making them have to deal with me. I will continue to take that approach."

Raja Bell scored 26 points and Steve Nash had 20 points and 18 assists for the Suns, who were looking to tie for the fourth-longest winning streak in NBA history.

But one night after downing LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for No. 17 in a row, the Suns couldn't find an answer for Garnett and uncharacteristically lost their offensive mojo in the fourth quarter.

After scoring 95 points in the first three quarters, Phoenix managed just 19 in the fourth and looked a little stagnant.

Nash dissected the Wolves' defense for the first three quarters, piling up assists at a near-record pace. But he scored just three points on 1-of-6 shooting and had just one assist in a final period that belonged to Garnett.

"Better to lose that way than to lose when we beat ourselves," Nash said. "Kevin was sensational. We just didn't make shots at the end at the clip Kevin was making them."

The Suns were in deep trouble midway through the fourth quarter thanks to three big shots by Garnett and some dirty work on the boards by Mark Madsen.

Madsen, an offensive liability for most of his seven years in the league, hit a fallaway jumper just outside the lane to cap an 8-0 run, then gave Minnesota a 112-107 lead with 3:38 to play after he scooped up a rebound and laid it in.

Garnett followed with a twisting, turning fadeaway on the baseline that brought the crowd to its feet.

Yet the Suns handled their first loss since a 101-99 defeat at Dallas on Dec. 28 much the way they handled the 17 wins that preceded it -- with a collective shrug and "aw shucks."

"It was cool while it lasted," Bell said.

When the final buzzer sounded, Garnett came over to Wittman and stood eye-to-eye with the new coach, shouting encouragement before stomping off the floor. Wittman took over for the fired Dwane Casey last week.

"I think we all felt bad when Case lost his job," Garnett said. "No one ever wants to get fired or traded ... It was really heartfelt in letting (Wittman) know that we'll fight for you every night."

Ricky Davis had 17 points for the Timberwolves, who shot 59 percent and simply wore the Suns down in the final minutes.

Shawn Marion had 24 points and 10 rebounds and Leandro Barbosa added 17 for Phoenix, which entered the night 15-0 in January.

"We'll start another one," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "This is fun."

Game notes
Wittman said injured G Rashad McCants is getting "pretty close" to coming back from microfracture knee surgery. Wittman wants to see McCants in a few more practices before he puts the second-year player in a game. ... Only seven of Phoenix's 25 assists were not made by Nash.