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Minnesota wins seven of eight

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves had nothing to
show for their near-perfect performance, other than a good-looking
game tape.

Wally Szczerbiak scored 20 points to help the Timberwolves beat
the Utah Jazz 111-86 Wednesday night, their seventh win in eight
tries.

Kevin Garnett had 18 points, 16 rebounds and six assists for
Minnesota. But with the regular-season schedule quickly shrinking,
the Timberwolves failed to make any progress toward the Western
Conference playoffs.

Seventh-place Denver (43-31) and eighth-place Memphis (42-32)
also won, leaving Minnesota (40-35) still 2½ games out of the last
spot. The Wolves, who dropped the season series to the Grizzlies
and would lose a tiebreaker with them, host the Nuggets on Friday.

"All we've got to do is worry about what we do," said Sam
Cassell, who had nine points in 10 minutes. "We can't worry about
what Memphis did."

Matt Harpring and Gordan Giricek each scored 14 points for the
lottery-bound Jazz (23-51), who trailed by as many as 39 points and
were beaten 47-29 on rebounds.

With three of his top five scorers -- Carlos Boozer, Andrei
Kirilenko and Raja Bell -- hurt, coach Jerry Sloan gave veteran
point guard Howard Eisley his first start of the season and
introduced Utah's 29th different starting lineup. That's the most
in the NBA this season.

Sloan didn't get to stick around long to watch, which might have
been a good thing. He picked up two technical fouls in the first
quarter for griping to referee Ken Mauer, earning his first
automatic ejection this season.

"It was one of the most enjoyable evenings I've had in a long
time," said Sloan, whose streak of 16 straight winning seasons is
ending.

One minute after Sloan was tossed, the Timberwolves completed a
19-0 run on a sharp fast-break pass by Troy Hudson to a streaking
Garnett for a layup that gave them a 25-4 lead barely eight minutes
into the game. Minnesota gave up eight points in the first period,
the fewest allowed in the opening frame in franchise history. It
was also Utah's lowest-scoring quarter of the season.

The Jazz lost their eighth straight on the road, dropping to
7-28 away from home.

A frustrated Jarron Collins got a charging foul late in the
third for burying his head in Garnett's chest and drew a technical
a few seconds later for complaining about it, which made Garnett
clap and smile. Then, while Latrell Sprewell lined up to shoot a
free throw, Eisley got a technical, too, for chirping.

"He's fouled all over the place ... and Jarron ends up with a
foul," Sloan said. "That was one of the funniest things I've
seen. But that's the way everything went for us all night long. It
wouldn't have made any difference."

After playing well below expectations for much of the season,
leading to the firing of coach Flip Saunders, the Timberwolves have
finally found their stride -- raising their record to 15-9 since
Kevin McHale took over for Saunders.

"It was just a good overall game," McHale said. "When you get
a big lead early, you're always worried that complacency's going to
set in. But the guys did a good job of not letting that happen."

Game notes
Bell is not with the team on this road trip because of a
bruised shin and tendinitis in his foot. Kirilenko (broken wrist)
and Boozer (strained foot) are on the injured list. Also, Keith
McLeod didn't dress for Utah because of a sprained wrist. ...
McHale raved before the game about Sloan, despite the Jazz's
struggles this season. "Jerry's one of my favorite people,"
McHale said. "His teams play hard. That's what I like." The two
spoke briefly before tipoff, but McHale said he didn't ask Sloan
about his plans for the future. Sloan, 63, is finishing his 17th
year as Utah's coach. ... Former University of Minnesota star Kris
Humphries, who left the Gophers after his freshman season, was
mildly booed each time he scored for Utah. ... Eight Minnesota
players scored eight points or more.