Venue: Target Center
While Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett has been getting help from an unlikely source, Elton Brand has benefitted from the Los Angeles Clippers finally getting healthy.
Garnett and the Timberwolves look for their season-high fifth straight win when they host Brand and the Clippers on Wednesday.
Garnett is a nine-time All-Star and was named league MVP in 2004, but he's been without much support the last few seasons. Minnesota (17-15) has been getting adequate production from Ricky Davis this season, but it's been Mark Blount who has been providing Garnett with the most help lately.
Garnett had 26 points and 13 rebounds, while Blount had 21 points and 10 boards in the Timberwolves' 103-99 overtime victory over Houston on Sunday. Blount was 6-for-12 from the floor - including his second 3-pointer of the season - and made a season-high eight free throws.
The 7-foot Blount, who is averaging a career-high 13.0 points this season, is scoring 21.5 points and grabbing 7.8 rebounds during the four-game win streak.
"He's been making it easier," Garnett said.
Blount's play is making it harder for defenses to key on Garnett, who is averaging 27.5 points and 14.5 boards in the last four games.
Minnesota has won each of its last three games in overtime, and seven of nine overall to move two games over .500 for the first time since starting the season with consecutive victories. The Wolves have not won five straight since Dec. 2-10, 2005.
While Garnett and the Wolves are thriving with Blount's play, a healthy Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley are helping Brand and Los Angeles (16-19).
Cassell scored 31 points and Mobley added 20 in the Clippers' 100-90 win over New Orleans on Monday.
Cassell missed eight games with plantar fasciitis in his left heel before returning against the Hornets. He made 3-of-5 shots from 3-point range and scored 10 points during a decisive 17-3 fourth-quarter surge, including a 3 that gave Los Angeles the lead for good with 9:12 to play.
"It's about playing with confidence. It's about having that attitude. It's about bringing that swagger," Cassell said. "I'm going to bring that swagger every night. That's what it's all about.
"If we continue to do that - have that swagger, keep our composure and just play hard - the key to our success is how hard we play."
Mobley missed last Wednesday's win over Miami with a hyperextended left elbow and scored just nine points while playing sparingly in his last two games before Monday's performance.
"We haven't had our team in eight or nine games," said Brand, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds against New Orleans. "Now we have a team and we're building on our season.
"I think we can make a run."
Los Angeles was at full strength when it lost 104-96 in Minneapolis on Nov. 25, despite Cassell's 31 points on 11-of-24 shooting.
The Clippers are 4-13 on the road this season, while the Timberwolves have won five straight home games to improve to 11-5 at the Target Center. Minnesota has not won six in a row at home since March 21-April 12, 2004.
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