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Jefferson, Miller lift Timberwolves past 76ers

Nov 20, 2008 - 5:35 AM By James Beilby PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- After losing six of their last eight games by less than six points and relinquishing four double-digit leads, the Minnesota Timberwolves finally were able to close out a game.

Al Jefferson scored 25 points and Mike Miller hit a big 3-pointer in the final minute to lead the Timberwolves to a 102-96 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.

The Timberwolves entered the fourth quarter with a 76-65 lead but needed a 3-pointer by Miller with 30 seconds to play to take a 98-94 lead and ultimately snap an eight-game losing streak.

"This was really big for us," Minnesota forward Craig Smith said. "We finally got over the hump. It feels great. We finally closed out a game. We were real aggressive at the end, getting the ball in to Al and letting Al finish and we got the stops we needed at the end of the game."

Jefferson scored six points in the final three minutes and Craig Smith came off the bench to score 21 points on 7-for-9 shooting. Smith matched his previous high score for the season of 13 points at halftime.

"Craig (Smith) was huge off the bench tonight," Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. "He came in and gave us two halves that were probably the best he's played all year."

Philadelphia went on an 8-0 run capped by a layup by Andre Iguodala to cut the lead to 88-86 with 3:51 to play.

The 76ers had the deficit down to one, 95-94, after a jumper by Andre Miller when Jefferson and Miller teamed up.

"Andre Miller hit some big time shots," Jefferson said. "But we didn't give up. We did a good job at the end of moving the ball through me."

Jefferson got the ball in the post and passed out of a double team to Miller. The 76ers were late rotating defensively, and Miller buried the three to put Minnesota up 98-94 with 30 seconds to play.

"When you have a player scoring like Al Jefferson was scoring, it puts a lot of pressure on you," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "Now you gotta go double, and who are you going to double with and who are you going to rotate to. You've got to give Al some credit, he got the ball to Mike Miller at the right time and he hit the shot."

The Wolves made their free throws down the stretch and sealed their second win.

"We closed out quarters better," Wittman said. "We've worked on that. We've worked on it all year and we'll work on it against tomorrow. It's a process."

Miller led Philadelphia with 20 points and Brand added 19.

Minnesota built a seven point lead in the second quarter with the help of strong bench play from Smith, who recorded nine of his 21 points.

After leading 56-52 at half, Minnesota extended their lead to 13 in the third quarter, sparked by nine points from Ryan Gomes.

Minnesota shot 38-of-74 from the field (51 percent). It was the first time the Timberwolves shot better than 45 percent since their opening night victory against Sacramento.

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