Randy Foye's 1-on-1 heroics brought sighs of relief and staved off the ugliest of home giveaways.
Considering how much re-gifting goes on at this time of year, maybe it should have been neither a surprise nor a disappointment when the Timberwolves nearly gave away another one Tuesday night at Target Center.
What they had done six days earlier against the Lakers, the Wolves were doing all over again against the Chicago Bulls. That night, L.A. outscored them in the fourth quarter 34-7, turning the rout from north to south in 12 bench-driven minutes. This night, the Wolves won 100-98, but not before Chicago outscored them 31-16 in the final period, completing a rally from 25 points down in the third when Ben Gordon sailed in for a layup that made it 98-98.
One small detail: There were 7.1 seconds left.
That was enough time for the Wolves to twice set up inbounds plays, first from Trenton Hassell to Kevin Garnett that the Bulls choked off.
After a second timeout, the next one went from Randy Foye to Garnett to Foye, who drove around the right side and got off a cold-blooded floater that dropped through with 1.8 seconds left.
At the other end, the Bulls backed up two timeouts for their own last chance. They passed to Andres Nocioni cutting toward the basket within layup distance, but there was Foye, backpedaling, trying to avoid a foul and pestering the Bulls forward just enough for the miss at the horn.
"There was a foul. It was contact," Nocioni said. "I don't know if it was his foul or my foul, but I felt something. Something happened."
No kidding. Foye wound up with a Dwyane Wade-like finish and a season-high 25 points, nine in the fourth quarter. And the Wolves wound up exhaling. They narrowly avoided blowing their fifth double-digit lead this season and one that -- at 25 points -- would have ranked as the franchise's all-timer.
"We can't give up these types of leads in the fourth quarter," said Garnett, who had 26 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists, leading the Wolves across the board for the sixth time this season. "It makes it hard on the starters, myself, everybody who helped build that lead.
"As a team, we have to learn how to close games out ... I'm sure the coaching staff has to do some things to adjust, to make this a little easier on everybody. But players have to be a little more assertive."
The Bulls (16-12) nearly made it 14 victories in their past 16 games by using a smaller lineup in the fourth quarter. What the heck, coach Scott Skiles was getting fed up with Minnesota's size advantage in matchups anyway, through two preseason losses and a defeat at Chicago on Dec. 9.
All those guards -- led by Ben Gordon's 27 points-- swarmed the Wolves, pestered them into seven turnovers and ran to 11 fast-break points. It made sense, then, that a guard bailed out the home club. A rookie guard at that, with 25 games of pro experience now and a growing collection of late-game moments.
"I was thinking about, every possession, trying to make the right play," Foye said. "I messed up a couple of times on defense, but when they gave me the ball at the end, I made up for it on offense."
Said coach Dwane Casey of Foye: "That is who he is, and I think that is who he will be in the future. We've got to live with his growing pains. I love him to death."
Near-death, as it turned out.
Steve Aschburner firstname.lastname@example.org
|Seattle - LP: F. Hernandez||0||FINAL|
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