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Wolves overcome fight, Olowokandi's ejection

DENVER (AP) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets
officially don't like each other.

Tension between the teams that started in last year's playoffs
boiled over Friday night with a wild fight between Nene and Michael
Olowokandi, adding another chapter to a rivalry that seems to grow
nastier with each game.

"It was almost like a playoff finals game," Nuggets coach
Michael Cooper said after Minnesota's 93-83 victory.

The Nuggets and Timberwolves played an intense, five-game series
in the first round of last year's playoffs, pushing, shoving and
jawing at each other until the final horn of the final game. They
went at it again in the teams' first meeting Nov. 4 -- a 94-92
overtime victory for Denver -- with more elbows and technicals.

This time the bad feelings started in the second quarter, when
Denver's Nene was called for a technical foul for elbowing
Olowokandi under Denver's basket. The two tangled again with 7.1
seconds left in the third quarter, and this time it got ugly.

Fighting for position under Minnesota's basket, Olowokandi twice
pushed Nene, who retaliated with a head-butt. Olowokandi started
yelling at Nene, then pushed him in the face.

Referee Bennett Salvatore and players from both sides tried to
separate them, but Nene charged in throwing punches, landing one to
the side of Olowokandi's head. The two players then started
flailing at each other in front of the scorer's table before
finally being pulled apart and escorted from the floor.

"It's a physical game, and it should be played within the
constraints of what the game allows legally, and the refs should
stop it before it gets out of hand," Olowokandi said.
"Head-butting crosses that line."

The Timberwolves seemed to get a boost from the altercation,
stretching a four-point lead to 79-69 behind Troy Hudson and
Latrell Sprewell. Hudson scored Minnesota's first seven points and
Sprewell added five more, shaking his head as the crowd booed him
back down the floor.

Denver fought right back, closing to within 80-77 to get the
crowd into it, but Hudson followed with a 3-pointer to quiet them
down. Minnesota started pulling away from there, with Sprewell
hitting two more 3-pointers to put the T-Wolves up 91-81 with 90
seconds left.

Hudson scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and
Sprewell had 13 in the final period for Minnesota, which won for
just the third time in 12 games and ended a seven-game road losing
streak.

And the Timberwolves did it without much scoring from Garnett.
Last year's MVP took just 10 shots and finished with 15 points --
eight below his season average -- though he added 10 rebounds and
seven assists.

"I think defensively we were good and we executed
offensively," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. "Any time we
got into a set, we got pretty much whatever we wanted."

Denver followed up one of its best games of the season against
the Lakers two nights earlier by standing around on offense and
allowing the Timberwolves to shoot 49 percent. The Nuggets have
lost six of seven and have only been mildly better since Cooper was
named interim coach, going 2-6.

Kenyon Martin led the Nuggets with 23 points and Marcus Camby
added 12 points and 12 rebounds, but leading scorer Carmelo Anthony
had another horrible shooting night against Trenton Hassell.
Anthony was 5-for-25 in the teams' first meeting this season and
wasn't much better this time, scoring 13 points on 5-of-18
shooting.

Anthony clearly became frustrated by Hassell's aggressive
approach, continually forcing up shots and arguing with Cooper on
the bench early in the fourth quarter. He left out a back door and
avoided talking with reporters

"Melo was frustrated. He's not shooting the ball as well as he
would liked to have shot it," Cooper said. "He has to understand
that the great ones let game come to them when you are struggling.
You can't force your game upon them."

Game notes
Former Nuggets star David Thompson attended the game. ...
Minnesota's road losing streak was its longest since dropping the
final 10 games in 1998-99, though the Timberwolves have an 8-2 road
record against the West. ... Minnesota G Sam Cassell has missed
four straight games, the last two because of a death in the family.