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Reserves Lead Wolves to Victory

Associated Press
Friday, February 18, 2005; Page D07

Minnesota's backups were too much for Cleveland's all-stars.

Reserve Wally Szczerbiak scored 26 points, and Kevin Garnett added 20 points, 18 rebounds and 6 assists to lead the Timberwolves to a 94-88 victory over the Cavaliers last night in Minneapolis.

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Led by Szczerbiak, the Timberwolves' bench players outscored Cleveland's backups 55-6, which was enough to hold off Cleveland's all-star tandem of LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas and give new coach Kevin McHale his second straight win.

"We are playing with a lot more confidence," Szczerbiak said. "There's no question about that."

James had 26 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds, but was helped to the locker room early in the fourth quarter while battling exhaustion from being ill. After getting fluids in the locker room, James returned to the court with just over four minutes to play and had to drop to his knees in the huddle during a timeout.

Jeff McInnis did his best to fill in, hitting two big jumpers off of drives to the basket that gave Cleveland an 81-79 lead with 4 minutes 30 seconds to play.

The Timberwolves responded with an 11-2 run. Garnett hit a layup and jumper, Szczerbiak added a jumper of his own and Garnett was able to slither in for an offensive rebound off a missed free throw from Eddie Griffin that led to a 90-83 advantage with 1:27 to play.

James scored six more points after returning to the court, but Griffin sealed the win when he took a no-look pass from Garnett and made a reverse layup with 23 seconds to go.

"They're playing a lot different," McInnis said. "They are taking on McHale's personality and playing a lot harder."

MAVERICKS 119, SUNS 113: Michael Finley matched his season high with 33 points and Josh Howard had a career-high 30, helping undermanned Dallas rally from a 10-point halftime deficit in Phoenix.

The loss dropped the Suns to 41-13 and denied them an opportunity to finish with the best record in the NBA before the all-star break. Instead, that honor goes to the idle San Antonio Spurs (41-12).

Dallas (35-16) completed a perfect four-game trip with the victory. The Mavericks beat three of the league's elite -- Phoenix, Sacramento and Seattle, in addition to Golden State -- on the swing through the West.

Finley, recently challenged by Coach Don Nelson to step up his production, scored 25 points in the second half.

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