The warmup act went well.
The Minnesota Timberwolves took care of their shooting, rebounding and losing funks all in one game Friday night, routing the Vancouver Grizzlies 103-91 behind Kevin Garnett (17 points, 10 rebounds), who finished one assist shy of his third career triple-double.
Terrell Brandon added 21 points as the Wolves snapped their four-game losing streak just in time for the return Sunday of Stephon Marbury, the point guard who forced a trade from Minnesota to New Jersey last March.
Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said he's gotten over the disappointment of the separation but does know this: Marbury is in for a rude welcome from Minnesota's miffed fans.
"I don't know if there's any more loyal people than in the state of Minnesota," Saunders said. "And when things don't work out, they take that personally."
But the Wolves might not be at full strength for the much-anticipated nationally televised showdown at Target Center because starting forward Sam Mitchell sprained his left ankle in the first quarter against the Grizzlies and didn't return. He's scheduled for an MRI Saturday.
Mitchell stumbled while backpedaling three minutes into the game and was stepped on by a defender. He had to be carried off the court. He was replaced by rookie Wally Szczerbiak.
"Of everyone, he will come back quickethan anyone we have, because he wants to play," Saunders said. "Hopefully it's not too severe."
An exhausted Garnett asked Saunders to take him out with 1:25 left. It was the second time this month that Garnett came within one assist of a triple-double.
"He keeps getting stuck on nine," Saunders said. "He'll get them sometime."
Michael Dickerson scored 27 points for the Grizzlies, who got off to a solid start and led 36-31 before Minnesota closed the first half with a 31-9 run.
"After Sam got hurt I think we kind of were wondering what was going on a little bit. Then, after a while we got our energy back," Saunders said. "I thought the second quarter defensively we were outstanding, about as good as we've been in a long time."
As good as anybody's been, for that matter.
But the damage was already done. The Wolves made 16-of-20 shots in the period, turning a 25-21 deficit into a 62-45 halftime bulge.
"We lost our poise and composure," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. "That second quarter was an unbelievable turnaround. They played with that lead the rest of the game."
The Grizzlies fell for the 16th time in 19 games against the Wolves.
"They're a good team, but I don't know why they give us so many problems," Shareef Abdur-Raheem said. "The last six minutes of the second quarter really killed us."
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