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KG hits winning free throws with 5.9 seconds left

DALLAS (AP) -- Trailing by 12 points with 4:27 left, having gone longer than that since they last scored, the Minnesota Timberwolves could've been thinking about finally getting home after a week on the road.

The Dallas Mavericks wish they had been.

Kevin Garnett made two free throws with 5.9 seconds left and
Trenton Hassell blocked Jerry Stackhouse's long jumper at the buzzer, giving the Timberwolves an 83-82 victory Monday night in the Mavericks' first of several games without Dirk Nowitzki.

Minnesota led for a total of 26.5 seconds. The first 20.6 came in the final minute of the third quarter; the only other time was the one that mattered most.

"They are in their locker room trying to figure out how they lost," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. "We are in here trying to figure out how we won."

Garnett had 21 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists -- far below the 29.5 points and 17.8 rebounds he averaged against Dallas last season, yet he seemed as dominant as ever. He scored the go-ahead points the first time Minnesota led and his final assist came on the Timberwolves' final basket.

"It's a big win because the Mavericks are going to be a team to be reckoned with in the West, with Dirk or without him," Garnett said. "It's an emotional win. It felt like a playoff atmosphere in the second half."

Garnett struggled early, partly because he hurt his right shoulder two days before but also because he had to deal with Dallas' Erick Dampier in the paint. Garnett's frustration boiled over with a cheap shot on Josh Howard, leading to the technical foul that put the Mavericks up 79-67 late in the fourth quarter.

But with Nowitzki and Michael Finley, Dallas' top two scorers, out with ankle injuries, the Mavs couldn't hold it.

Dallas made only 1-of-9 shots the rest of the way. The Mavericks' final point was a free throw by Stackhouse with 1:33 left that put them up by five.

"This is a game we should have won, but we let it go down the drain," said Dampier, criticizing teammates for settling for too many jumpers. "Even without Dirk and Finley, we still have enough talent to compete and win every night."

Sam Cassell, who had 16 points, scored with 4:14 left to start Minnesota's rally, although at the time it was more of a drought-ender. The Timberwolves hadn't scored since the 9:27 mark,
when Eddie Griffin tied the game at 67 with a 3-pointer.

A missed 3 by Dallas rookie Devin Harris gave Minnesota its final possession. The Timberwolves called timeout with 11 seconds left, then went to Garnett on the inbounds pass.

Alan Henderson didn't foul him despite Dallas having one to give. He waited until Garnett made a move to the basket, which sent the reigning MVP to the line with Minnesota down by one.

He made the first before the Mavericks called timeout. His second free throw was a perfect swish.

"I've got a bum shoulder, bad knees -- I'm giving it what I've got," Garnett said. "I wasn't happy about missing those (three) earlier free throws, but this time I took my time and made them."

The Mavericks went to Stackhouse for the last try, but his 17-footer from the right wing was cleanly stuffed by Hassell. The arena went silent and Garnett walked across midcourt pumping his fist, while Saunders practically skipped onto the court with a huge
smile.

Dallas was playing the night after a lopsided loss in Denver. It was also the team's first game without Finley, Nowitzki or Steve Nash, their vaunted "Big Three," since Dec. 26, 1996. Finley is on the injured list and Nash now plays for Phoenix.

Nowitzki twisted his left ankle just before halftime Sunday against Denver. An MRI taken Monday showed a mild sprain that will keep him out seven to 10 days, likely keeping him out of four or five games.

The Mavs did fine early, leading 27-12 late in the first quarter and maintaining a 14-point edge in the third quarter.

"The guys deserved to win this one," Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. "But you don't always get what you deserve in life."

Howard led Dallas with 22 points, tying the career high he set two games before. Harris had 14 points and Marquis Daniels had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Game notes
Minnesota scored and allowed its fewest points this season. ... Dallas matched its season-low point total set the previous game. ... Calvin Booth started for Nowitzki and made his first four shots before missing his next three.