Bobcats 108, Timberwolves 95
It took a trip to the weight room, some special exercises and a ball of tape to help Stephen Jackson overcome a painful finger injury and break out of his shooting slump.
That, along with a friendly stretch of the schedule, has moved the Charlotte Bobcats up a notch in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Jackson got hot from 3-point range (4 of 6) and scored on a variety of drives on his way to 37 points as Charlotte beat Minnesota 108-95 on Wednesday night to send the reeling Timberwolves to their 14th straight loss.
Jackson, who a night earlier revealed he had been plagued by a bruised ligament in his left index finger for the past several weeks, hit 15 of 24 shots after shooting 37 percent in the previous 10 games.
``It's not going to get better until the season is over and I can rest it. But I've got to block it out,'' Jackson said. ``This isn't the first time I've played with pain. I've played with a broken toe for three years, so I've got to just find a way to figure it out.''
So Jackson came to the arena early to lift weights. He went through some exercises with strength and conditioning coach Michael Irr, then taped the fingers on his non-shooting hand.
``My left hand is my dribbling hand, my setup hand,'' Jackson said. ``I do a lot of stuff with my left hand, so it's been frustrating the last couple of games. But I'm starting to block it out. I've made some adjustments and it's starting to come together. But there's still a lot of pain.''
It didn't show against the struggling Timberwolves. Gerald Wallace added 23 points as the Bobcats shot 54 percent in their sixth straight home win.
``He's a scorer,'' Wallace said of Jackson. ``He's not going to let a finger injury keep him from scoring.''
Al Jefferson scored 21 points for the Timberwolves, who came apart in a 20-0 Charlotte run in the second quarter. They committed 17 turnovers and slipped to 5-32 on the road as their long and difficult season winds to a close.
``Our team has difficulty sustaining their defense. They lose focus,'' Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said. ``They get away from their defensive game plan. It's inexcusable for us as a team to turn the basketball over as much as we do and also give up 66 points in the paint. That number is just ridiculous.''
Unlike a night earlier when the Bobcats needed overtime to beat woeful Washington, the Bobcats didn't have as much trouble as they continue an easy portion of the schedule. This began a five-game homestand that includes another meeting with Washington and a matchup against struggling Philadelphia.
Jackson's return to form was a good sign for the Bobcats (37-34), who moved into a tie with idle Miami but hold the tiebreaker by taking the season series.
Jackson had gone 10 for 39 from the field in the past two games and was 13 of 53 from 3-point range in the last 10.
``Doctor said it's not going to get any better this year,'' Jackson said. ``The best thing I can do is get ready to bear the pain and try to get it healed during the offseason.''
The offseason can't come soon enough for the Timberwolves, who last won on Feb. 23.
Ramon Sessions had 14 points off the bench for Minnesota, which got little from its starting group outside Jefferson. Corey Brewer and Jonny Flynn had eight points apiece on a combined 6 of 17 shooting.
With new owner Michael Jordan not in his courtside seat for only the second home game since he agreed to buy the team, the Bobcats got off to a sluggish start.
Minnesota shredded the league's top scoring defense in building a 43-34 lead on Wayne Ellington's 3-pointer with 7:22 left in the second quarter.
But soon Minnesota went on a turnover spree and Charlotte was scoring at will in transition during a 20-0 run over the next six minutes. The last 10 points in the spurt were scored by Wallace as Charlotte built a 55-45 halftime lead.
``We let teams go on their run. We can't stop it,'' Brewer said. ``And we don't go on a run. We stop scoring. It's tough.''
Minnesota did get within five points in the third quarter before Jackson hit two 3s and Minnesota never seriously threatened again.
NOTES: Brown was asked about Minnesota C Darko Milicic, whom he buried on the bench as a rookie in Detroit. ``He didn't have a clue. But it didn't mean he wasn't talented,'' Brown said. ``He's never going to be the second draft pick. That wasn't fair. But he can be a positive player for any team.'' ... C Brian Cardinal was inactive in his first game back with Minnesota. ... Rambis recalled his buzzer-beater to beat Chicago in the Charlotte Hornets' debut season in 1988. ``It just created a buzz around town,'' he said. ``The attraction started then.''