MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Since moving back to his old spot in the
lineup, Latrell Sprewell has looked more like the offensive threat
Minnesota expected him to be.
Sprewell scored 25 points, including a pair of key 3-pointers in
the fourth quarter, leading the Timberwolves to a 92-84 victory
over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night.
It was the second straight impressive game for Sprewell, who
moved to small forward and scored 29 points at Denver on Friday.
Against Portland, he hit big shots down the stretch to give
Minnesota just its second victory in its last six at Target Center.
"The last couple of nights I've shot the ball well," Sprewell
said. "I don't know if that's the lineup change or not."
Sprewell, who averaged 17 points per game last year, has
struggled and seen his scoring average drop to 12 this season. The
position switch was part of a collection of lineup changes by
Wolves coach Flip Saunders to get more offense off the bench.
If Sprewell can keep it going, it will help take pressure off
Kevin Garnett. The Wolves won despite Garnett not leading the team
in one of the major offensive categories -- points, rebounds or
assists -- for the first time this season.
"That's important," Sprewell said. "He plays so many minutes.
He needs rest."
Garnett had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Eddie Griffin grabbed
a career-high 18 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who sent Portland
to their seventh loss in eight games.
Minnesota led throughout the second half, but Portland was
within one at 75-74 when Sprewell hit a 3-pointer with 6:16 to
play. He added another with 4:47 to go after the Blazers closed to
The Timberwolves also took advantage of a thinned Portland
front-line to gain a 44-32 edge in rebounding. Missing frontcourt
players Zach Randolph, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Darius Miles due to
injury, Portland went to a four-guard lineup through much of the
"We don't have a low post presence right now," Portland coach
Maurice Cheeks said. "We have to rely on shooting jump shots and
you're going to give yourself a slim chance to win when you're
shooting all jump shots."
The Wolves scored the first seven points of the second half to
break open a tie game. But Minnesota, which has let numerous
second-half leads slip away at home this year, couldn't shake the
Blazers until Sprewell got hot late.
Saunders' lineup changes also produced 40 points from the
Minnesota bench. The reserves scored all but two of the Wolves' 24
points in the second quarter.
Portland led by as many as nine following a 21-4 run in the
first quarter, but Minnesota rallied to tie it by halftime.
"We've got to be a little bit more aggressive," Van Exel said.
"(The injured players) are a lot of our offense, so we've got to
find somewhere to pick it up."
Minnesota's Sam Cassell missed his fifth straight game with a
strained hamstring. Randolph did not dress for the second
consecutive game because of a sore right knee.
Minnesota center Michael Olowokandi was suspended four
games after his fight with Denver forward Nene in the third quarter
of the Timberwolves' 93-83 victory in Denver on Friday night. ...
Griffin's previous high in rebounds was 16 at Atlanta on Jan. 10,
2003, while with Houston.