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Jefferson helps end Timberwolves' losing streak at five

Dec 9, 2007 - 5:15 AM MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Al Jefferson helped put an end to the third five-game losing streak for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Jefferson tied a career high with 32 points and added 20 rebounds as Minnesota got back into the win column with a 100-93 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.

Marko Jaric had 19 points and Craig Smith chipped in 16 for the Timberwolves, who have lost five games in a row three times this season - only to answer each skid with a win.

"This win feels especially good," Jaric said. "Especially beating one of the best teams in the NBA. We have been fighting really hard and have been trying to get some luck back. Right now we have to continue this kind of effort."

With his performance, Jefferson became the only Timberwolves player other than Kevin Garnett to have a 30 point, 20 rebound game - and the first since May 19, 2004.

"The team did a great job of finding and giving me the ball in the fourth quarter," Jefferson said. "Marko, Corey, Sebastian, and Craig played big on the offensive end and that helped me out a lot."

Minnesota used a key run late in the third quarter and a big defensive effort in the fourth to end the Suns' five-game winning streak.

The Timberwolves ended the third on a 10-1 run - keyed by six points from Rashad McCants - to take an 87-80 lead entering the fourth.

Minnesota built its lead to as many as 10 early in the fourth before Steve Nash connected on consecutive 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 91-87 with 8:24 to play.

Leading, 93-89, with 6:54 remaining, the Timberwolves held the Suns scoreless for almost six minutes as they expanded their lead back to 99-89 with just under one minute to play.

"I think we got them rolling, gave them the sense that they could beat us," Suns guard Raja Bell said. "And they did. Once you let a young team with a lot of energy believe and start feeling good about themselves, anything can happen."

Minnesota also enjoyed a substantial rebounding edge, 55-33, for the game. Phoenix also shot just 7-of-25 from the arc as it failed to score at least 110 points for the first time in six games.

"We always give up a lot of rebounds, maybe too many" D'Antoni said. "But that is them being quick to the ball and tonight we weren't quick to the ball."

The Suns shot just 13-of-40 (33 percent) in the second half and may have felt fatigued after playing their fourth game in five days. Including tonight, three of Phoenix's five losses have come in the second game of a back-to-back set.

"They played hard and they played well," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, so give them credit. We turned on our defense a little late."

Both teams shot at least 50 percent in the opening quarter as the Suns held a 32-28 lead after the first.

An 11-2 run gave Phoenix its largest lead at 49-43 with 4:04 left in the first half but the Timberwolves closed the deficit to 56-55 at the break.

No team led by more than six points until Jefferson hit the front end of a pair of free throws with 19 seconds to play in the third quarter to give the Timberwolves a seven-point advantage entering the fourth.

Shawn Marion led the Suns with 18 points and Nash finished with 14 and 15 assists, marking his sixth straight game with at least 14 assists.

"This one's on us," Suns center Amare Stoudamire said. "We couldn't pull out the win. We might have been a little tired, but that's not an excuse. We should have gotten that win. We were trying to make it a perfect trip and we fell one game short."

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