MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Wally Szczerbiak's best game of the season
was special for another reason.
"I've been here six years and have made a home here, so I am
really happy about accomplishing things like that," Szczerbiak
said. "But, it's in the past now and I have to strive for new
"It's great, but I have to keep trying to improve and help this
team win a championship."
Kevin Garnett, the Wolves' all-time leading scorer, had 19
points and 19 rebounds for Minnesota, which won for the eighth time
in 10 games. Sam Cassell had 19 points and 13 assists in coach Flip
Saunders' 400th career victory.
"It's a great feeling to see your teammates do well," Garnett
said of Szczerbiak. "I was looking for him, I knew he was in a
Zach Randolph had 16 points and 14 rebounds for Portland, which
lost for the fourth time in six games. Darius Miles had 17 points
in a reserve role as the Trail Blazers lost the first game on a
six-game, nine-day road trip -- their longest of the season. Shareef
Abdur-Rahim added 15 points.
"Their guards won the game," Randolph said. "They made a lot
of big shots."
Szczerbiak keyed a run at the start of the fourth quarter with
four quick points to give Minnesota an 87-79 lead with 6:17 left.
The Trail Blazers got within 89-85, but Cassell scored four and
Szczerbiak had a three-point play to give Minnesota its largest
lead at 96-85 with 3:31 remaining.
Portland could not get closer than nine points thereafter.
"I just got into a flow and a rhythm," said Szczerbiak, who
had his highest point total since scoring a career-high 44 on April
13 against Chicago.
Portland scored nine straight points to open the second quarter
and take its biggest lead at 32-23 with 8:52 left.
Minnesota countered by outscoring the Blazers 22-10 over the
remainder of the half to take a 45-42 lead into the break. Eddie
Griffin, who finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, sparked the
rally with six points and two blocks.
Portland opened the third with another run -- this time 7-0 -- to
take a 49-45 lead.
After scoring just five points in the first half, Garnett had
eight in the third quarter as the Wolves built a 70-65 lead. Nick
Van Exel, who missed the last three games with a sore right hip,
hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 70-68 entering the fourth.
Szczerbiak hit a running jump shot with 6:25 left in the second
quarter to reach 5,000 points in his career. He joins Garnett, Sam
Mitchell and Doug West as the only Wolves to score at least 5,000
Blazers shot just 5-of-15 from the foul line, with Miles
"If I hit my free throws we probably win the game," Miles
Minnesota outrebounded Portland 51-39. ... Entering the
game, Portland ranked third in the NBA in points allowed with 90.7
points per game and 25th in points scored at 90.7.