<
>

New Orleans off to worst start in franchise history

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Eddie Griffin left the New Orleans Hornets wondering what they have to do to get their first win of the season.

Griffin, a reserve, made 10-of-14 shots and scored 23 points and Kevin Garnett had 20 points and 12 rebounds despite a shoulder injury in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 99-94 victory over the Hornets on Saturday night.

Griffin came in averaging 6.5 points, but against the Hornets he made three 3-pointers to go with several dunks, layups and mid-range jumpers. He scored 12 points in the third quarter to help Minnesota build a double-digit cushion it carried through much of the second half.

"We all knew he could shoot the ball, but he never seems to have the type of game he had against us," Hornets forward P.J. Brown said. "Everything goes good for other teams that play against us and nothing goes good for us. I don't think anyone in this locker room has ever been through what we're going through right now. It's kind of unexplainable."

The Hornets are 0-8 and going through the worst start in franchise history. They have lost six times at home and now face a five-game Western Conference road trip. They had a chance to end their slide against Minnesota, but Griffin was there to deny them.

After New Orleans pulled within seven with less than two minutes remaining, Griffin demoralized the Hornets with a reverse jam after he picked up a loose ball under the basket.

"It's still a long season. We can turn this thing around at any given moment," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "Hopefully, once you get one, things will snowball a little bit for you."

Griffin recently began working extra on his game with Minnesota general manager and former Celtics star Kevin McHale. The Hornets invited him to shoot by leaving him open.

"My teammates did a good job of finding me and I was knocking it down," Griffin said. "I've been working hard after practice and it's paying off."

Sam Cassell scored 12 first-half points and finished with 20 after attempting only four shots in Minnesota's previous game. He promised that would never happen again.

"When I score ... we win," Cassell said. "I know this team needs me. I'm aggressive. It takes a lot of pressure off everyone else."

Fred Hoiberg hit a pair of 3s and finished with 15 points, and
Wally Szczerbiak added 11 for the Timberwolves.

Lee Nailon scored 21 points in a reserve role, keeping the Hornets in the game with 13 in the second half. It marked the first time this season a guard didn't lead New Orleans in scoring. Guards David Wesley and Darrell Armstrong added 14 and 13 points, respectively, and Brown had 10.

Jamaal Magloire, who came in averaging 13 points, was held to six.

George Lynch's 3-pointer helped New Orleans open the second half with a 10-2 run that got the Hornets as close as 48-47 in the third quarter. Minnesota regained control when Garnett -- who hurt his right shoulder while slamming into the padding under the basket late in the first half -- came out of the locker room and returned to the game.

Garnett will have his injured shoulder re-evaluated on Sunday.

"When he didn't return right away we were concerned and looking over our shoulder ... which allowed them to make a run," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "But when he returned and knocked down some shots it settled us down."

Garnett and Cassell hit back-to-back jumpers, followed by Griffin's second 3-pointer, and the Wolves lead increased to 55-47.

Griffin continued to dominate the quarter. He hit another 3, put back Szczerbiak's miss, drove the baseline for a reverse layup and slammed down an alley-oop pass from Cassell. The last basket gave Minnesota a 70-58 lead in the final minute of the third quarter.

Game notes
Rookie Matt Freije, signed by New Orleans on Friday, made three 3-pointers in the final minute. ... Lynch, who has started every game, attempted his first free throw of the season with just under three minutes to go in the first half. He missed it. ... New Orleans has allowed opponents to shoot 50 percent or better in five games.