With the Cleveland Cavaliers on the verge of blowing a big lead for the third straight game, LeBron James got involved.
James had 26 points and 12 assists and helped turn back a rally as the Cavaliers held on for a 107-97 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
"When we need it, (James) can provide it," Cavaliers coach Paul Silas said. "That's the mark of a quality player."
The Cavaliers had lost two in a row, squandering a 10-point halftime lead Thursday at Detroit and a 15-point fourth-quarter bulge in Saturday's home overtime loss to Boston. In that contest, James scored just two points in the fourth quarter and admitted his team played "tight" as the offense sputtered.
This game seemed to follow a similar script as Cleveland led by 16 points early in the final period before Minnesota began a comeback. But James, who turns 20 on December 30, wasn't going to let that storyline repeat itself.
"I passed up a lot of shots that I know I should be taking in the game against Boston," James said. "But, tonight I was aggressive, I was attacking, and our offense had a good flow."
Seven straight points by Troy Hudson cut the deficit to 83-74 before James sank a jumper from the right corner over Wally Szczerbiak. A 3-pointer by Hudson and a jumper by Szczerbiak made it 85-79, but James hit a driving 10-footer to again stall the rally.
When Eddie Griffin drilled a 3-pointer to make it 87-82, James drove strong around superstar Kevin Garnett and drew a foul. His free throw and two more by Jeff McInnis made it 90-82 with 5:22 to play.
Down the stretch, James added a free throw and zipped a pass through a zone to Drew Gooden for a dunk and a 99-88 lead with 1:46 left.
"We talked about it after the (Boston) game and we talked about it yesterday in practice and the guys responded," Silas said. "We cannot walk the ball up the court and become tight. And that's what we did in the Boston game."
Asked if James raises his level of play against the league's marquee teams and elite players such as Garnett, Silas replied, "I think so. Absolutely. He loves to play against quality opponents."
"We played a great game tonight from the first quarter through the fourth quarter," James added.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 25 points and nine rebounds and McInnis scored 21 points for Cleveland, which had lost its last four meetings with Minnesota but improved to 10-2 at home, the best mark in the Eastern Conference, and 6-3 against Western Conference opponents.
"It's important for us to establish (Ilgauskas) early," McInnis said. "And the rest of us just fit in. I took it upon myself to be aggressive tonight."
Led by James' 10-of-18 shooting, the Cavs shot 53 percent (39-of-74) from the field and had 28 assists.
Garnett had 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists for the Timberwolves, who played without Latrell Sprewell. The swingman suffered a foot injury in Friday's win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
"We looked too much for our own shots instead of moving the ball," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "You look at McInnis, James and Ilgauskas, and (the Cavaliers) have three positions where they can really score at. Other guys know how to play off them."
"We really didn't shoot the ball like we know we can, and, at the same time, our defense wasn't really established," Garnett said.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Eddie Griffin's homecoming was a lot better than that of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Griffin drained six 3-pointers and scored 20 of his career-high 27 points in the first half as the Minnesota Timberwolves rolled to a 119-84 victory over the lethargic 76ers, who have lost six straight games.
A Philadelphia native who attended Roman Catholic High School, Griffin was signed as a free agent by the Timberwolves after a troubled start to his career in Houston. He missed all of last season due to off-court issues that included an assault on a woman and was cut by two teams.
"I've just been trying to stay focused and positive all season," Griffin said. "I've been doing a lot of extra shooting. The veterans have been a big help. They've let me know what to do on and off the court."
"The guy has been through a lot the last couple of years and it's great to see him to come out and have a great game like he did tonight," Timberwolves superstar forward Kevin Garnett said. "It's great to be in a nice flow and rhythm, to be part of a system that really enjoys him. To have our guys truly care about him, that's rare."
The rejuvenated Griffin has worked his way into Minnesota's rotation and is providing 9.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a reserve.
"I made a decision as a coach that when we got Eddie that we would give him enough responsibility that he would keep on improving," coach Flip Saunders said. "We didn't want to overload him, we didn't want to put too much pressure from the standpoint of being a starter. We let him know that when he goes in there, he has the ability of playing pretty loose."
In his hometown, Griffin was the best player on the court in the decisive first half. He came on midway through the first quarter and sank two 3-pointers, helping the Wolves to a 31-26 lead.
He put on a blistering performance in the second quarter, draining four more 3-pointers as he repeatedly found openings in the double-teaming defense of the Sixers.
"They went to double on KG and that left me open," Griffin said. "Sam (Cassell) and Troy Hudson were able to find me."
In the best game of his career in front of a handful of friends and family, Griffin made 9-of-21 shots and added 11 rebounds and four assists.
"It meant a lot," Griffin said. "A lot of my family were here. I left about 25 tickets. They were able to see me play a good game."
The Wolves held a 61-48 halftime advantage and led by double digits for all but 63 seconds thereafter as the Sixers heard boos throughout the second half. Minnesota opened a 37-point bulge in the fourth quarter.
Latrell Sprewell returned from his one-game suspension to score 24 points and Kevin Garnett added 19, eight rebounds and seven assists in just three quarters for the Wolves, who held a 51-37 advantage on the glass and got back on track after Tuesday's home loss to Dallas. Minnesota has won six of its last seven games.
The Sixers are helping plenty of teams get back on track. Returning from a winless five-game road trip, they suffered their worst loss in their eight years in the Wachovia Center and are mired in their worst slide since also losing six in a row in January 2003.
"As Truman said, it stops right here," said coach Jim O'Brien, pointing to himself. "We have the personnel to be a lot better that we've shown over the last week and a half. We have the personnel within the Atlantic Division to get into the playoffs, but we are not playing up to our capabilities."
Allen Iverson made 2-of-13 shots and Kyle Korver 2-of-14, including 1-of-12 from the arc. Philadelphia made 4-of-25 3-pointers while Minnesota made 15-of-34.
"I wish I could put my finger on one thing," said Iverson, who scored 14 points. "There are a lot of things wrong right now. We're just not playing well. We are not playing well as a team and our individual games are not that great as well. Our communication is not there, like it should be."
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Minnesota Timberwolves fans now have the opportunity to vote for their favorite players as starters for the 54th NBA All-Star Game as the 2005 NBA All-Star Balloting program began today. Timberwolves' guards Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell along with forwards Kevin Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak appear on this year's ballot. Timberwolves fans can vote for their favorite players on www.nba.com, or via in-arena ballots at Target Center. Balloting continues through Jan. 23, 2005. This year’s All-Star festivities will be held in Denver on Sunday, Feb. 20.
Garnett, who has made seven consecutive NBA All-Star appearances and has been voted a Western Conference starter six consecutive seasons through the fan voting process, led all Western Conference players in voting with 1,780,918 votes a year ago. Sprewell is vying for his fifth all-star appearance, while Szczerbiak and Cassell have been named to the all-star team one time each in their NBA careers
Ten years ago, NBA All-Star Balloting extended beyond the United States for the first time, when ballots were made available to fans in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia. A decade later, fans will have the opportunity to vote in more ways than ever as the balloting program for the 2005 NBA All-Star Game has expanded to include 19 languages on the NBA.com Network, downloadable ballots via Verizon Wireless and approximately 150 Loews Cineplex Entertainment movie theaters in the United States. Twentieth Century Fox this year joins Sprite, America Online, Reebok and approximately 2100 Foot Locker and Champs Sports stores in the United States and Canada as All-Star balloting partners.
NBA All-Star 2005 is a week-long celebration that enables fans to experience the thrill of the world’s greatest athletes playing the game they love and features a full slate of community enhancing activities and fan festivals.
A total of 120 players - 60 from the Eastern and Western Conferences - are listed on the NBA All-Star ballot, with 24 guards, 24 forwards and 12 centers from each conference comprising the ballot. Voters select two guards, two forwards and one center from each conference. The 120 players on the ballot were selected by a panel of media experts who regularly cover the NBA. This year’s panel included; Ric Bucher (ESPN the Magazine), Mark Heisler (Los Angeles Times), Ernie Johnson (Turner Sports), Jack McCallum (Sports Illustrated) and Sam Smith (Chicago Tribune and President, Professional Basketball Writers’ Association). For a complete list of NBA players on the ballot visit www.nba.com.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
The Minnesota Timberwolves took advantage of Tracy McGrady's absence to record their first road win of the season.
Kevin Garnett scored 20 points and Sam Cassell added 18 and both made some big shots down the stretch as the Timberwolves posted a 96-91 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Garnett, who also had 17 rebounds and nine assists, struggled offensively for much of the game but came alive when it counted, scoring seven points in the fourth quarter. After Cassell hit a jumper to give Minnesota a 90-87 edge, Garnett drained a 14-footer for a five-point lead with 1:40 left.
The Rockets, who had won three in a row, responded with four straight points from Yao Ming. But again Garnett responded, grabbing an offensive rebound after Cassell missed a jumper and just beating the shot clock with a 19-footer with 8.3 seconds left.
"We were just trying to bounce back from the Pacers loss" said Garnett, whose club lost 102-101 to Indiana on Tuesday. "I wasn't happy with that loss at all. We move the ball well. They did a lot of fronting, and we moved the ball around and came out focused."
"We can make shots," said Cassell, who spent his first three seasons with Houston. "We're a shot-making ballclub. But the defense for us was excellent tonight."
Jim Jackson was called for an illegal screen as the Rockets tried to in-bound the ball and Wally Szczerbiak made a pair of free throws to cap the scoring.
"I thought it was a terrible call, nothing more, nothing less," Jackson said. "That didn't lose us the game, but it didn't give us a chance to shoot either. Maybe he (the referee) saw something we didn't see. He said that I tried to set a pick, but I was the shooter."
"We played 36 hard minutes, real hard minutes tonight, and that is not good enough," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said.
Van Gundy was alluding to a poor first quarter in which Minnesota built a 35-24 lead. The Timberwolves made seven straight shots, including a 3-pointer by former Rocket Eddie Griffin, in a 19-7 run late in the period.
"This is a first-quarter league, not a fourth-quarter league," said Van Gundy, whose team has trailed at halftime and after three quarters in four of its six games. "We don't have that down yet.
"Down in Detroit, down in Toronto, down tonight; we were able to escape with the win the other night against Memphis with the same start as tonight but we weren't able to overcome it (against Minnesota)."
Griffin struggled on and off the court in two seasons with the Rockets before being released in 2003. He was logging his first significant minutes of the season after a three-game suspension and responded with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Griffin's second 3-pointer with less than five minutes left snapped an 83-83 tie and gave Minnesota the lead for good.
"He doesn't say much but he is a (heck) of a player," Garnett said. "He is making the most of his opportunities and I just told him to stay aggressive."
"Eddie played extremely well," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. "He made some big shots and had some big blocks. He did a great job fronting Yao when (Michael Olowokandi) was in foul trouble."
Griffin said the Houston fans' boos didn't bother him.
"I did expect it," he said. "It just made me play harder. It didn't bother me. I knew as soon as they announced my name, I'd be booed. It's nice to show (Rockets fans) I can play."
McGrady, who had scored 53 points over the first two games of the Rockets' winning streak, left Tuesday's win over the Memphis Grizzlies with strains in his right hip and groin and was in street clothes vs. Minnesota.
Yao picked up the slack with 25 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. Maurice Taylor added 19 for Houston, which was outrebounded, 41-33.
"We knew without Tracy McGrady, (Yao) would get twice as many touches," Saunders said. "He played well."
The Rockets cut the Timberwolves' double-digit lead to one on five occasions before taking a 72-71 edge with 10:39 left on a layup by Ryan Bowen. The teams exchanged leads three more times before Griffin's big shot set the tone down the stretch.
Monday, November 01, 2004
MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 29 (Ticker) -- Kevin Garnett scored 22 points and Eddie Griffin chipped in 15 off the bench as the Minnesota Timberwolves posted a 102-95 victory over the Detroit Pistons in the preseason finale for both teams.
Picked by many to win the Western Conference and meet the defending champion Pistons in the NBA Finals, the Timberwolves overcame a 13-point deficit after one quarter.
Garnett did his best to keep it close, scoring 14 in the first quarter, including Minnesota's first six. Anthony Carter had three steals and a pair of baskets during a second-quarter run and Troy Hudson had all nine of his points in the third as the Timberwolves took control of the game.
Minnesota outscored Detroit 58-37 in the second half.
The Pistons went on an 11-1 run in the fourth to trim the deficit to five, but Michael Olowokandi converted a three-point play for a 93-85 lead with 4:01 left.
Griffin, who was signed by the Timberwolves on Oct. 5 after plenty of off-the-court problems, added a pair of blocks in his best game of the preseason.
Minnesota beat Detroit twice in the preseason en route to a 4-4 record. It opens the regular season at home on Wednesday against the New York Knicks.
Richard Hamilton scored 21 points for the Pistons before picking up his second technical foul with 3:12 remaining. Ben Wallace contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Detroit wrapped up the preseason with a 3-5 mark and will begin its defense of its crown by hosting the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.