Tide turns for Timberwolves

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The Independent Online

Timberwolves 114, Kings 101

Timberwolves 114, Kings 101

After losing their season opener to the Sacramento Kings, Kevin Garnett promised the Minnesota Timberwolves would be a very different team for game two on Sunday.

He was right.

Garnett, who turned the game around in the second half, hit for 31 points on Sunday in the Timberwolves 114-101 win over the Kings, the second of their two-game, season-opening series in Japan.

"One of the things I tried to do was get my teammates involved," Garnett said. "It was a team effort ... and that was the difference."

Garnett, who was 13-22 from the floor, also led the Timberwolves with 12 rebounds. Though Garnett dominated, scoring was more spread out on Sunday than the day before. Anthony Peeler hit for 19 points, and Joe Smith - returning from a foot injury - added another 17. Guard Terrell Brandon had a two-game total of 25 assists - a record for the NBA Japan Games.

Chris Webber was high scorer for the Kings with 22 points, and also led the team with 10 rebounds.

Garnett - the high scorer in Minnesota's losing effort on Saturday with 34 points - opened scoring on Sunday as the Timberwolves got off to an early lead.

Webber then hit a driving layup, the first basket of a seven-point streak that put the Kings ahead at 20-18 with three minutes left in the first quarter, which ended 27-26 in the Kings favour.

The game went back and forth as the Kings brought out their bench for the second quarter.

Smith, who had surgery 30 days ago, was hot for the Timberwolves, scoring nine points in the quarter. Webber's return with three minutes left in the quarter sparked the Kings to a scoring run that put them eight points ahead. A three-pointer on the buzzer from almost half court cut the Kings' lead to 63-61 at halftime.

From then on, it was the Timberwolves' game.

"I said to my teammates, 'We need to make a run," Garnett said. "They looked a little tired, and we tried to take advantage of it."

Garnett started the third quarter with a free throw, a slam dunk and then a three-point jumper that put the Wolves ahead 67-63. Garnett continued to dominate throughout the quarter, in which he went five-for-five from the floor, and hit all three free throws.

As the Kings' offense began to unravel, the Timberwolves expanded their 88-81 lead at the beginning of the final quarter to 106-87 with 4:39 remaining. In a final spurt, Kings' guard Jason Williams hit for three, but was shut down as he tried to use his trademark speed and passing to inject some life into Sacramento's offense.

"In the third quarter, we were really poor at both ends of the court," said Kings' coach Rick Adelman. "It was a disappointing game."

Webber said the team's problem was not fatigue.

"It just came down to them flat-out taking it from us," Webber said.

This is the fifth year the NBA has held season opening games in Japan. The first Japan Games series was between the Pheonix Suns and Utah Jazz in 1990.

Attendance at Sunday's game was a capacity crowd of 34,013. To accomodate more fans, the games were moved to the Tokyo Dome from a smaller venue in 1996.

Notes: This year's Japan games were broadcast to a record 131 countries, in 13 languages ... Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura took time out on his first trip abroad as governor to cheer for the Timberwolves ... The Portland Trailblazers scored the most points in a Japan game with 121 against the Los Angeles Clippers in 1994.

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