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KG has 24 and 13; Griffin clutch down the stretch

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves are so desperate
for victories at this point that they won't quibble over nearly
blowing a 20-point lead for the second game in a row.

"Just win, baby," guard Sam Cassell said. "We just need some
wins."

Kevin Garnett had 24 points and 13 rebounds and Eddie Griffin
came up with some key plays down the stretch to help the
Timberwolves hold off pesky New Orleans, 107-102, on Wednesday
night.

After New Orleans scored six straight points, Griffin hit two
free throws and converted a three-point play to give the Wolves a
97-89 lead with just over four minutes to play.

Griffin finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the
Timberwolves, who didn't trail for the second straight game, but
once again allowed their opponent to claw back into the game in the
fourth quarter.

"We're nursing those leads a little bit," coach Kevin McHale
said. "We just have to focus and play better defense."

Jamaal Magloire led the Hornets with 20 points and 17 rebounds
and J.R. Smith added 20 points and seven assists, but it wasn't
enough to keep New Orleans from losing for the seventh time in nine
games.

"I think right now our team defense is really poor," Magloire
said. "We don't trust one another, we don't help each other all
the time."

The Timberwolves are going to need to keep winning if they hope
to leapfrog Denver, which has won 12 of 13, and sneak into the
Western Conference playoffs. Denver, which did not play on
Wednesday, holds a 2½ game lead over the Timberwolves with 13 games
to play.

"Every game is a playoff game for us right now," Fred Hoiberg
said. "Especially with Denver playing the way they're playing."

Just like they did two nights ago in a victory over the Rockets,
the Timberwolves nearly let a 20-point lead slip away.

Troy Hudson scored 12 of his 18 points in the first quarter and
Minnesota shot 63 percent in the first half to take a 15-point lead
at the break.

"We got out to a slow start and that's been one of our letdowns
the whole year," Magloire said. "We've got to stop playing
catch-up."

New Orleans battled back, using a big advantage on the offensive
boards to close the third quarter with a 9-2 run. Bostjan Nachbar
knocked down two 3-pointers during the spurt, the last one coming
from the corner just before the quarter ended that made the score
80-74.

"Definitely, it's (dangerous)," Wolves forward Wally
Szczerbiak said when asked about letting teams get back in the
game. "When we get a team down 20, we're supposed to take care of
business and blow them out by 40."

New Orleans had seven players in double figures, including Dan
Dickau, who had 17 points and six assists, but was a liability on
defense.

The Timberwolves' point guards combined for 32 points and nine
assists, with Sam Cassell chipping in with 14 points and four
assists.

The Hornets sure could have used Speedy Claxton, who missed his
second straight game with a sprained left ankle.

"Speedy being out hurts us defensively, big time," Hornets
coach Byron Scott said. "When he's out, like he has been the last
couple of games, it really kills us on the perimeter."

Game notes
Prior to tipoff, a moment of silence was observed for the
10 people, including five students, who were killed when a
16-year-old boy opened fire at a school on the Red Lake Indian
Reservation and then killed himself on Monday. ... Timberwolves F
Mark Madsen will miss the remainder of the regular season with a
ruptured ligament in his right wrist. Madsen hopes to have surgery
next week and will need about three months to recover. ... Hornets
F David West, originally listed as out for the game with a bruised
right knee, played 23 minutes and had three points and six
rebounds.