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Jaric scores 22 as struggling Wolves top Mavs

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves need Marko Jaric
to stop being so self-critical and start playing more consistently.

He relaxed for once, and they reaped the benefits against the
Dallas Mavericks.

Jaric scored 22 points to spark struggling Minnesota to a 91-78
victory over Dallas on Wednesday night.

"I was telling myself, 'Marko, this team needs a point guard
out there," said the mercurial Jaric, who came in a trade with
the Los Angeles Clippers this summer and has performed sporadically
since.

The Timberwolves, who won for only the third time in their last
11 games, were paced by Kevin Garnett's 23 points, 10 rebounds and
five assists.

Wally Szczerbiak contributed his usual 20 points, but Jaric and
defensive stalwart Trenton Hassell (14 points) were the catalysts
for a team that has been starving for scoring beyond the big two.
Garnett and Szczerbiak are the only ones averaging better than 11
points per game, but Jaric was right there with them in this one.

"That's a good sign," Szczerbiak said. "He's a very
high-strung guy. He's got to channel that in the right way. He
can't get down on himself."

Dirk Nowitzki had 23 points, and Marquis Daniels chipped in 16
points for the sluggish Mavericks, who were held to a season-low in
scoring and shot only 37.2 percent (29-for-78) from the floor. They
lost for just the fourth time in their last 17 games.

"Nobody had a lot of energy out there, and we were going
through the motions," Nowitzki said. "That's not good enough to
win on the road."

The effort was exactly what Minnesota has been missing, still
stinging from a two-game trip to Florida that featured a 30-point
loss to the Orlando Magic and a 27-point defeat to the Miami Heat.
It was especially rewarding against a team like Dallas, which has
the NBA's third-best record at 23-9.

"We're on the radar now," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said.
"There is no hiding."

That goes for Jason Terry, who had 42 points in his last two
games. Jaric guarded him well, and he carried that over to the
offensive end. Terry scored seven points on 3-for-14 shooting.

"I don't think they blew by us once on those
mid-pick-and-rolls," Minnesota coach Dwane Casey said. "The past
couple games, they've had a smorgasbord."

Jaric had only 23 points, total, in his previous four games.

"It was the first night we didn't have to say anything to
him," Garnett said. "I think he had a chip on his shoulder."

Mavericks backup point guard Devin Harris was OK to play after
spraining his right thumb the night before against Portland when he
blocked a dunk attempt by the Blazers' Ruben Patterson -- knocking
Harris out of the game in the second quarter.

That's the kind of play Johnson is after (though not the injury
part, of course) this season from his team, never known for strong
defense and sometimes derided as "Allas" -- as in no 'D.'

The Mavs were stingy in the first half, rebounding well and
holding the Wolves to 38 points -- including only one second-chance
basket. They grabbed a three-point lead at the buzzer when Nowitzki
swished a 26-foot heave, but their shooting was off and the running
attack was mostly in first gear.

Embarrassed by 27 fast-break points given up in a 102-95 loss at
Dallas last month, Minnesota was deliberate about getting back on
defense and keeping the up-tempo Mavericks out of their element.

Hassell's 3-pointer tied the game at 43 early in the third
quarter, and the Timberwolves never trailed after that. Hassell had
a dunk over Nowitzki on a feed from Szczerbiak to make it 59-51,
and Jaric scored on a wide-open jam off a fast break to put
Minnesota up 63-55. Dallas was flustered, committing three
turnovers over the final three minutes of the period.

"Once we started missing, we started pressing," said sixth man
Jerry Stackhouse, who had five points on 1-for-9 shooting. "Just a
bad night. Won't be the last one, either."

Game notes
Josh Howard, who was picked three spots after the Wolves
chose high-schooler Ndudi Ebi in the 2003 draft, added 14 points
and seven rebounds for the Mavericks. Ebi is already out of the
league. ... Minnesota's frontcourt was thinned by the absence of
Mark Madsen, whose grandmother died this week. The funeral is in
Utah on Thursday, and Madsen is expected to rejoin the team for
Friday's game in San Antonio. ... Dallas will decide Thursday on
swingman Adrian Griffin's status, Johnson said before tipoff. If
he's still on the roster on Tuesday, his contract becomes
guaranteed for the rest of the season.