MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- All these narrow wins by the Minnesota Timberwolves were bound to balance out sometime. The Los Angeles Clippers were the beneficiaries, even calling it their best victory this season.
Corey Maggette came back from a brief injury absence to score 21
points, sinking the winning shot from the corner with less than 5 seconds left Wednesday night in the Clippers' 92-91 win over the Timberwolves.
"We have to take this home and build on it," said coach Mike Dunleavy, whose team concluded a six-game trip and improved to a mere 5-13 on the road.
Kevin Garnett had his typical 19 points and 17 rebounds, but he
missed his big chance to match Maggette when his wide-open 16-footer bounced off the rim just before the buzzer. That ended a four-game winning streak for the Timberwolves, who pulled out overtime victories in each of their last three -- all at home.
"When Kevin shot, I thought we won it," said Bracey Wright, who had six points in 10 surprising fourth-quarter minutes.
Elton Brand had 21 points and Sam Cassell added 18 points for the Clippers, who made it to the second round of the playoffs last spring but have been bothered by various injuries this season and have plenty of catching up to do if they want to make it again.
That's why this win felt so good.
"If we can play like this, with this aggressiveness, this passion? See, that's the game," Cassell said. "That's what we've been playing with. That's why we have been successful."
The Wolves were missing some of the rhythm and focus they used to win seven of their previous nine games. Getting 24 points from Ricky Davis and 21 points from Mark Blount, they kept up their recent defensive improvements and took the right shots -- but couldn't hit them at the right times.
Mike James and Randy Foye teamed to go 1-for-15 from the floor, and Foye missed one of two free throws with 52 seconds left and the game tied at 88. Blount fumbled the ball for a turnover and airballed a 3-pointer from the corner when Foye made the wrong pass in the final minutes.
Then Garnett, the most recent Western Conference player of the week, got his great look but couldn't come through. He hit the winner last week against the Sixers.
"I got the shot I wanted. That's all you can ask for," Garnett said.
Minnesota coach Dwane Casey was most disappointed that his team didn't grab a defensive rebound on the final possession. Cuttino Mobley attempted the first shot, but Brand came up with the ball and zipped it out to Maggette, who had been out with a sore left foot for the last two games.
"We've got to be the hungry dogs every time we walk on the court," Casey said.
Trenton Hassell hit what could have been the big shot, a 17-foot
jumper he swished with 25 seconds remaining that regained the lead for the Wolves at 91-90. But Maggette was the man on this night.
"My job is just to go out there and play my man and score. I wasn't expecting to hit the game-winner, but I was expecting to be productive for this team," he said.
Blount is averaging more than 21 points over five games in 2007 to bring his season average above 13. He scored the first seven points -- including a 3-pointer from the corner -- on a 9-0 run in the third quarter by Minnesota for its biggest lead, 62-55.
Cassell, who came off the bench on Monday against the Hornets but scored 31 points following a seven-game absence caused by soreness in his left foot, started with Shaun Livingston in the backcourt for the first time this season.
In the closing seconds of the first quarter, Cassell backed down Foye and sank one of those smooth, lean-back jump shots from 18 feet to give the Clippers their biggest lead of the game, 24-18.
Jaric sprained his right thumb in the second quarter and did not return to the bench. He missed two games last week with a similar injury. ... Livingston is 6-for-30 from the field in his last three games. ... Eddie Griffin was inactive for the 12th straight game, the longest such stretch of his career. Contributions by Blount and rookie Craig Smith have made Griffin unnecessary. Foye, who shot 1-for-10 and finished with five points, has done the same thing to Troy Hudson, who is healthy but did not play for the 11th time this season. ... Chris Kaman, who had 12 points and six rebounds for Los Angeles, was limping after halftime and didn't play in the last 16 minutes. He sprained his right ankle in the first quarter.