Take away Tom Gugliotta and Stephon Marbury. Take away two more starters and two key backups. That leaves Kevin Garnett and a whole new look for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
But the $126 million man doesn't need much help, and when he gets it the Wolves still look like an emerging Western Conference power, even without all the players they've lost in the last 2½ months.
That's what happened in Tuesday night's 98-78 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
Garnett dominated in every facet. He scored 22 points on 11-for-12 shooting, tying a team record with his 91.7 percent shooting. He added nine rebounds, eight assists and a smothering defensive performance on Michael Finley, the Mavericks' leading scorer.
Terrell Brandon scored a season-high 22 points, Tom Hammonds had a season-high 15 and Dean Garrett added 12 for the Wolves. A lot of players chipped in, but Garnett carried the load, as usual.
"He does so many things," coach Flip Saunders said. "If we were leading the division, everybody'd be talking about him as MVP. He's so good in everything he does that his defense gets overlooked."
Finley, an explosive 6-foot-7 small forward, scored just six points, more than 12 below his average, before the 7-1 Garnett went to the bench for the night with 5:23 remaining and the Wolves leading 92-67.
Finley shot 3-for-13 before hitting two jumpers after Garnett left the game. He finished with 10 points.
"He can guard anybody in the league," Saunders said of Garnett.
In addition, Garnett has become the team's floor leader since the trade that sent Marbury to the New Jersey Nets.
"It's extra duty, but somebody's got to do it," he said.
Brandon, acquired in the Marbury deal, is averaging 15.5 points and 8.4 assists in nine starts with the Wolves and is starting to feel more comfortabe with Minnesota's offensive and defensive schemes.
Brandon scored 16 points in the third quarter as the Wolves turned the game into a rout. He hit all seven of his shots in the period, including three straight jumpers on feeds from Garnett.
"Coach was disappointed that I only took eight shots in the last game," Brandon said, referring to Sunday's home loss to Milwaukee, his former team. "He wanted me to shoot more, but I love to pass. We have so many good guys, so it's easy for me to pass to them. Tonight I just started getting good looks."
It was the eighth straight road loss for the Mavericks, who played the second half without coach Don Nelson. He was ejected with four seconds left in the first half while arguing a no-call on a play on which Mark Strickland injured his back. Strickland did not return to the game.
Gary Trent had 16 points and 11 rebounds to lead Dallas, which managed a season-low 14 points in the second quarter as Minnesota opened a 52-38 halftime lead.
"We just didn't have any continuity out there, and it's something you don't realize until you're down by six, then 12, then 20," Trent said. "I don't know, it's frustrating."
The Wolves won without two starters forward Joe Smith (ribs) and guard Anthony Peeler (calf) and top backups Malik Sealy (ankle) and James Robinson (back).
After missing its last 15 shots in Sunday's loss, Minnesota responded by shooting 53 percent from the field, snapping a streak of 21 straight games in which it had failed to hit 50 percent. Notes: Hubert Davis scored just six points for Dallas, ending his string of eight straight games in double figures. He missed his only 3-point attempt after going 18-for-35 (51.2 percent) from that distance in the previous eight games. ... Tuesday's game marked the first of six straight for the Wolves (17-13) against teams with losing records. ... Dallas is 2-14 on the road.
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