The Minnesota Timberwolves were mostly flat after halftime, until Latrell Sprewell provided a big energy boost with the game winding down.
That's exactly what teammates expect from him, even with his contract complaint claiming most of the attention during this first week of the
Sprewell ended a quiet night with a flurry, scoring seven points in a 2-minute span down the stretch to spark the Timberwolves to a 99-92 victory over
the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night.
Kevin Garnett had eight of his 29 points in a 70-second span with less than 2 minutes remaining, picking up where Sprewell left off. Garnett also had
"Spree is a major, major part of this thing we're trying to put together," said Sam Cassell, who had 13 of his 15 points in the first half. "If he was
worrying about his contract and all that when he was on the court, this wouldn't have happened."
Sprewell, who is making $14.6 million in the final year of his deal and seeking a two-year extension, bolted the locker room before reporters entered.
He finished with 14 points and five rebounds.
"Anytime you let a scorer get a couple of easy baskets, hold on," said David Wesley, who had 21 points for the winless Hornets. Baron Davis scored 21
points and dished out 12 assists.
The Timberwolves were in danger of squandering a solid first half, letting New Orleans surge back with a suddenly energetic, Davis-led running
"We wanted it to be a running game from the beginning," Wesley said. "The third quarter is the way we want to play for 48 minutes."
Sprewell, who played only 17 of the first 40 minutes, knocked down a shot with 3:08 left to put Minnesota up 83-80. He ran a full-court fast break for
a layup on the next possession - and drained a jumper with 1:29 remaining to give the Wolves a 90-83 advantage.
Cassell, who had 13 of his 15 points in the first half, wrapped his arms around Sprewell on their way back to the bench after a timeout was called.
"Spree was phenomenal in the clutch, just like we expect him to be," said his backup, Fred Hoiberg.
Wesley's 3-pointer with 15.5 seconds left pulled New Orleans to 95-92, but Minnesota closed it out with a steady stream of free throws.
The Hornets trailed by as many as 18, when Cassell's 3-pointer with 1:34 left before halftime made it 54-36. New Orleans went on a 29-9 run from
there, taking a 65-63 lead on a layup by Davis in the third.
But Minnesota, which rebounded from an ugly 94-92 overtime loss at Denver on Thursday, ultimately made the Hornets pay for their lack of rebounding -
the Wolves held a 44-31 edge on the boards.
"It's been our bread and butter since I've been here," said forward P.J. Brown. "So far this year it hasn't, but it's early. Some things need to
This isn't a promising start for the Hornets, who were transferred to the deep Southwest Division in the tougher Western Conference - where it will be
much more difficult to qualify for the playoffs. Especially with small forward Jamal Mashburn done for the season with a knee injury.
Under new coach Byron Scott, their third boss in as many years, the Hornets are 0-3. They were beaten by Orlando 90-89 on Friday after a last-second
shot by Steve Francis.
"We've definitely got to get more energy and push from the bench," Davis said. "We have more talent on our bench than last year."
The Wolves, after a sluggish start that had them trailing 20-12 midway through the first quarter, seized control with 52.3 percent shooting before
halftime en route to a 54-40 lead.
Garnett gave a clinic on how to play the low post, frequently exploiting Jamaal Magloire and Chris Andersen for his 19 first-half points.
It was nothing anybody hadn't seen before. Garnett would thrust his right arm into the air, call for the ball with his usual "To the hand!" plea and
twist his long, slender frame around the defender, along the baseline and up toward the hoop.
Cassell found plenty of creases on the wing, too, shooting 6-for-8 for his 13 first-half points.
[Edited on 11/7/2004 by Ben]