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NEW ORLEANS 90, WOLVES 83

Up next: at Dallas • 7:30 tonight American Airlines Arena • Ch. 45

Wolves miss mark, and an opportunity

  • Article by: Steve Aschburner
  • Star Tribune
  • February 2, 2007 - 11:07 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY - Hugo the Hornet accidentally slammed into a female security guard during a timeout early in the second quarter on Friday night, her head banging off the hardwood floor in what turned into a scary but ultimately minor seven-minute delay (she was OK, despite being hauled off on a stretcher). About five minutes after the final horn, a photographer retrieving some equipment from behind one backboard fell off his ladder, slamming to the same Ford Center court and causing another cluster of nervous colleagues and helpers (he was OK, too).

No one, however, came rushing over to assist the Timberwolves when they went splat against the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, 90-83.

An inability to find any flow or attack the rim offensively, an over-reliance on jump shots that betrayed them and another poor start doomed the Wolves (22-24) to their eighth loss in 10 games. And now the trip really gets tough, with a stop in Dallas tonight to face the NBA's best team.

Just four nights after they nailed 59 percent of their field goal attempts against Phoenix, the Wolves misfired at a 38.8 clip, their second-worst percentage this season and only the fourth time they've finished below 40. Credit Hornets center Tyson Chandler (16 points, 18 rebounds, four blocked shots) for making the middle unpleasant and forward David West for pushing around Kevin Garnett as he tried to set up down low.

Blame the Wolves, though, for not fighting through it.

"I never felt we got anything really established inside," Wittman said. "Our game became a jump-shooting, perimeter game. I never felt really comfortable, from the standpoint of creating anything in the post. We didn't even want to go in there.

"Then [Mark Blount] got hot making shots, and you fall in love with that a little bit, too."

Blount, averaging only 11.4 points in his seven previous games, scored 10 of his team-high 21 in the third quarter. But he was scoreless after that. Garnett hit a meaningless three-pointer with 11 seconds left, boosting him to 17 points and 13 rebounds. Yet he did not shoot a single free throw.

"They packed the paint," Garnett said. "Tyson does a good job in homing in on the ball. He stays between the ball and the man. ... We've got to be a lot more aggressive."

Said Hornets coach Byron Scott, whose club leads the season series 2-1: "Tyson did a great job of guarding one of the greatest players in the league."

Down 12-3 barely four minutes after tipoff and 18-7 midway through that first quarter, the Wolves were on the wrong side of a 30-8 points-in-the-paint gap by halftime. They hit six of their first 10 shots in the third, finally taking a lead at 57-56 on Blount's jumper at 6:01. The Hornets (20-26) scored the last six points of the period.

By that point, Minnesota had made nine of 11 free throws, the Hornets two of six. Over the final 12 minutes, though, the Wolves shot four, the home team 15.

"That tells you right there we're not being aggressive," Wittman said.

A three-point play by Smith tied it 68-68 with 9:14 left to go. But the Hornets outscored the Wolves 17-7 over the next seven minutes, while the Wolves missed nine of 12 shots and watched their percentage drop like a Warroad thermometer.

If Chandler was the game's best big man, point guard Chris Paul, playing in his second game after missing 17 because of a sprained right ankle, was the best little man on the court. He scored 24 points and dished eight assists and got backcourt help from Jannero Pargo (13 points).

Steve Aschburner • saschburner@startribune.com

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