- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 29, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Playing more aggressively than he has in months, Mike Miller had 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to help the Minnesota Timberwolves snap a seven-game losing streak with a 108-99 victory over the fading New Jersey Nets on Sunday.

Ryan Gomes scored 21 and Kevin Love added 16 points and 11 boards for the Timberwolves, who had lost 18 of their last 20 games.

Vince Carter had 36 points and eight rebounds for the Nets, who have lost four in a row. They fell to 11th in the Eastern Conference, 5 1/2 games behind Detroit and Chicago for the eighth and final playoff spot with just nine games to play.

Carter’s three-point play off a dunk cut Minnesota’s lead to 101-94 with just over a minute to play, but losing to one of the worst teams in the league without their top two players may have sunk the Nets into too big a hole.

Devin Harris had 19 points and five assists in his second game back since missing 12 days with a shoulder injury.

The Timberwolves have been without leading scorer and rebounder Al Jefferson since he went down with a knee injury just before the All-Star break. Randy Foye emerged as the de facto leader, but he was out on Sunday with a hip injury that has nagged him for more than a month, so the Wolves were without their top two scorers.

So Miller, who has been almost stubborn in his refusal to shoot the ball in his first season in Minnesota, essentially had no choice but to put it up. He scored nine points on 3-for-4 shooting in the first quarter to set an aggressive tone, and kept shooting all game.

His reverse layup at the start of the fourth quarter gave him 13 attempts for the first time since Dec. 1 at Charlotte. He finished 8-for-14 from the field, giving him his most shot attempts since he shot 17 times Nov. 28 at Oklahoma City.

The Timberwolves entered the game shooting a league-worst 44 percent from the field. Before the game, coach Kevin McHale lamented the scores of missed layups and open jumpers that he’s seen this season, and never moreso than in their most recent seven-game losing skid.

Then he watched his struggling team put together one of its most impressive halves of offensive basketball in recent memory to jump out to an 18-point lead.

The Timberwolves shot 67 percent in the first 18 minutes and had 14 assists on their first 16 baskets. Minnesota hit six of its first seven 3-pointers, and Gomes made the eighth shot from long distance of the half to give the Wolves a 54-36 lead with 3:25 to play in the half.

After attempting only four shots in the first half, Carter came out firing in the third quarter, scoring New Jersey’s first nine points. Harris added a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 65-60, but the Nets never got closer than that the rest of the way.

Notes:@ The Nets were without F Bobby Simmons (back) and F Jarvis Hayes, who flew to Atlanta where his wife gave birth to a baby boy on Sunday morning. … Timberwolves F Craig Smith missed the game with a calf injury. … Wolves F Mark Madsen got some rare early action in the first period, but picked up three fouls in less than 2 minutes and quickly returned to the bench.

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