Finally, after three weeks, a victory

Minnesota outlasts Philadelphia, gets first win since before Halloween

By Jerry Zgoda

McClatchy News Services

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves waited three weeks for Wednesday night’s 102-96 victory over Philadelphia at Target Center.

They waited three weeks for their season’s second victory, after beating Sacramento by a basket in the opener way back two days before Halloween.


They waited three weeks for Mike Miller, the veteran shooter acquired from Memphis in that dramatic draft-night trade five months ago, to assert himself as he did Wednesday, with a 10-point, 10-rebound, six-assist game that included the night’s punctuating three-pointer with 30 seconds left.

They waited three weeks before they finally played down the stretch of a tense game mostly how their team has been built to play.

"Twenty-one days?" Wolves forward Craig Smith asked. "Seems like a thousand years."

This time, the Wolves trailed by 13 points early and led by 11 late. This time, after kicking away a double-digit lead as often as not in an eight-game losing streak that ended Wednesday, they held that lead tight to their chests and persevered after the 76ers, who surfed a three-game winning streak into Target Center, pulled within a point three times in the final 3:19.

They were repelled because the Wolves played through their star, Al Jefferson, when it mattered most. Smith’s energy — and his 21 points off the bench, 13 before halftime — brought the Wolves back from early deficits of 12-3 and 19-6.

But it was their determination — and the insistence of Randy Foye, who returned to the starting point guard job for the first time since the season’s fourth game — to get Jefferson the ball that ensured they didn’t go four more minutes down the stretch without a point, as they had done too often in an eight-game losing streak that matched last season’s longest.

"Al was a load down there tonight," coach Randy Wittman said. "The difference was, we made plays tonight. It was a process we had to go through."

Jefferson scored six consecutive points in the final four minutes for the Wolves, who responded to every Philadelphia surge and made enough defensive stands to win. Those last four points pushed the Sixers back after they had moved so close.


"I don’t feel like I have to take every shot at crunch time," Jefferson said. "But the ball should go through me."

When Philadelphia again got within one point with 50 seconds left, Jefferson passed through a collapsing defense and found Miller open for that crucial, late three-pointer.

"That’s what he can do for us," said Wittman, who could have been referring to either player but was talking about Miller. "Ten, ten and six is pretty good."

Jefferson clenched his fists tight in celebration over his head and yelped as the final seconds ticked away. Later, Foye smiled broadly in a locker room filled with happy noise.

"Winning is fun," Foye said. "Man, it’s fun, as you can tell."



Brand 9-21 1-3 19, Young 7-11 1-2 15, Dalembert 2-6 0-0 4, A.Miller 8-13 4-4 20, Iguodala 6-15 4-9 17, Green 3-5 0-0 6, Speights 3-6 2-2 8, Williams 2-6 3-3 7, Ivey 0-1 0-0 0, Evans 0-0 0-0 0, Rush 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 40-85 15-23 96.



Gomes 6-12 0-0 14, Jefferson 12-21 1-3 25, Collins 0-2 1-2 1, Foye 3-8 4-4 10, M.Miller 4-7 0-0 10, Love 2-6 5-5 9, McCants 2-3 0-0 4, Brewer 2-5 2-4 6, C.Smith 7-9 7-10 21, Telfair 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 38-74 22-30 102.

Philadelphia..... 27 25 13 31 — 96

Minnesota........ 24 32 20 26 — 102

3-Point Goals — Philadelphia 1-11 (Iguodala 1-6, Young 0-1, Ivey 0-1, Rush 0-1, Green 0-2), Minnesota 4-12 (M.Miller 2-4, Gomes 2-5, Foye 0-3). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Philadelphia 52 (Brand 13), Minnesota 45 (M.Miller 10). Assists —Philadelphia 19 (Iguodala, A.Miller 6), Minnesota 29 (Telfair 8). Total Fouls — Philadelphia 26, Minnesota 19. Technicals — Minnesota defensive three second.

A — 10,111 (19,443).

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