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Wolves take advantage of Seattle turnovers

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves have struggled for
several seasons to find a reliable center. Eddie Griffin sure
looked the part Wednesday night.

Making his first start of the season due to a banged-up
frontcourt, Griffin recorded his second double-double of the season
with 22 points and 12 rebounds, and blocked four shots in
Minnesota's 108-95 win over Seattle.

Combined with Wally Szczerbiak's 30 points and Kevin Garnett's
26 points and 10 rebounds, Griffin helped the Wolves snap their
two-game losing streak. The Wolves won for only the second time in
eight games.

"As long as he is playing at that level, he is our starting
center," Wolves coach Dwane Casey said of Griffin, who wasn't
available to reporters after the game.

With starting center Michael Olowokandi sidelined by a right
elbow injury and backup Mark Madsen limited by a bruised back,
Minnesota kept a three-guard lineup for most of the game with
Garnett and Griffin up front.

The smaller lineup helped the Wolves shoot 58 percent. Griffin
went 8-for-11 from the floor -- including 2-for-4 from 3-point range
-- and his defense and rebounding helped set up several fast breaks
that led to dunks and easy layups for Minnesota.

"The game is so much easier when we get the ball up the
floor," Szczerbiak said.

Szczerbiak shot 12-for-18 from the floor and 3-for-5 from behind
the arc. Casey said Minnesota focused on setting up Szczerbiak, a
dangerous perimeter shooter who's led the Wolves in scoring in 11
of 13 December games. He's topped 20 points in each of the past
nine games, the longest such streak of his career.

"My philosophy is any open look is an open look," Szczerbiak
said.

Said Casey: "Kevin and Wally are playing at an All-Star
level."

Seattle helped out, too: The Sonics committed 22 turnovers that
led to 28 points.

"We shot ourselves in the foot," Ray Allen said. "I thought
we were so close to busting open, but we gave it away."

Minnesota led 76-52 in the third quarter before Seattle climbed
back into the game with a 20-4 run to make it 80-72 with 8:45 to
play. But Garnett energized the crowd with a dunk, and Szczerbiak
added a fast-break layup and followed with a 3-pointer to push the
lead back to 87-72.

"We had a turnover, missed shots and Wally hits a 3,"
Seattle's Damien Wilkins said. "I don't know exactly how it went,
but we were right there and then 60 seconds later we weren't."

Seattle, which didn't come closer than 10 points the rest of the
way, responded by losing its cool, as Danny Fortson was ejected
after arguing with the officials.

Allen led Seattle with 24 points, while Reggie Evans and Wilkins
each had 15. Rashard Lewis scored 14.

Ronald Murray started for Seattle two nights after dislocating
two fingers on his right shooting hand in Monday's victory against
Boston, in which he scored a season-high 29 points. He went
1-for-12 for three points against the Wolves.

Game notes
Seattle had won four of the last five meetings against
Minnesota. ... Sonics G Luke Ridnour didn't travel with the team
due to a chest injury he suffered last Friday against Dallas. A
team spokesman said it was possible Ridnour would meet the team
Thursday in Denver, although coach Bob Weiss didn't sound
optimistic. "He was feeling nauseous so I doubt he'll be there."
... Garnett fouled out for the second time this season.