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Szczerbiak sparks 11-1 third-perion run

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Wally Szczerbiak was looking forward to
spending a rare weekend relaxing in the Twin Cities with his
family. On Friday night, it began with his best game of the season.

Szczerbiak scored a season-high 29 points, including 11 in the
third quarter, as the travel-weary Minnesota Timberwolves defeated
the Los Angeles Clippers 113-86.

Minnesota's last eight games comprised four sets of
back-to-backs in less than two weeks, playing in a different city
on the second night of each. After beating Portland at home on
Tuesday, the Wolves arrived in Toronto at 3 a.m. Wednesday and
looked sluggish as they faded down the stretch in a loss to the
lowly Raptors.

But after a day off, the Wolves easily dispatched the Clippers,
and will be rewarded with their only weekend off this season -- the
Wolves don't return to action until Tuesday night at Cleveland.

"I love playing at home, with the crowd on your side," said
Szczerbiak, whose previous season-high was 28 points on Tuesday
against the Trailblazers. "I'm just so happy I get to sleep in my
own bed, spend a weekend in the Twin Cities and enjoy the holiday
spirit with my family."

Szczerbiak pumped in seven quick points in the first two minutes
of the third quarter, part of an 11-1 run that gave the
Timberwolves a 58-43 lead. Minnesota stretched its lead throughout
the fourth quarter and cruised to its largest margin of victory at
home this season.

Kevin Garnett scored 28 points and led Minnesota with 10
rebounds and seven assists for his 21st double-double of the
season.

Elton Brand scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead
the Clippers, who shot 39 percent from the floor and have lost four
straight.

"(It was) a tough shooting night for us, but not for them,"
Brand said. "They were hitting their shots, taking their time, and
getting into what they wanted to get into. That third quarter, they
really came out and ... played well and executed."

The Timberwolves, who shot a total of 17 free throws in their
previous two games -- including none in the first half at Toronto on
Wednesday -- had no problem getting to the foul line against the
Clippers. They made 30 of 37 attempts, with Garnett connecting on
11 of 13 and Szczerbiak going 9-for-9 from the line.

Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said his players' aggressiveness
on offense was due as much to their energy level as the offensive
philosophy.

"We had better legs tonight, there's no question about that,"
Saunders said. "Fatigue can really affect you mentally and you
wind up taking the path of least resistance, which is usually the
jump shot. You tend to take too many quick shots and not run the
offense, not make the extra four to five cuts you need to find the
best shots."

The Clippers were the ones settling for jump shots on Friday,
but they weren't having shooting problems early, making seven of
their first eight, including three long jumpers by Marko Jaric. But
Garnett scored 11 points in the first quarter, and his three-point
play in the final minute gave Minnesota a 24-23 lead.

Los Angeles continued to have trouble getting the ball inside on
Minnesota's zone defense, and when the jump shots stopped falling,
the Wolves were able to build their lead. The Clippers shot 39
percent in the first half, going 6-for-25 from the floor after
their blazing start.

"We didn't move the ball well enough," Clippers coach Mike
Dunleavy said. "We stood around and were basically guarded by
their zone at times."

After surviving their most hectic stretch of the season, don't
blame the Timberwolves if they show up at work again on Saturday,
out of force of habit.

"I actually packed my bags today," Garnett said. "Some family
(told) me, 'Hey, you're not going anywhere. You actually get to
sleep in your bed tonight.' That's a good feeling."

Game notes
Timberwolves guard Troy Hudson, who raps under the name
"T-Hud," will perform at Target Center on Saturday night. ...
Minnesota forward Latrell Sprewell left the floor less than three
minutes into the game after colliding with Bobby Simmons of the
Clippers. Sprewell has a sprained left foot and didn't return to
the game. ... Clippers guard Kerry Kittles missed the second half
with a strained lower back.