MINNEAPOLIS -- There was no plastic covering the lockers, no corks popping, no confetti. In fact, the end of a 10-game losing streak was barely noticed by the Washington Bullets last night.
"Ten games? I didn't even know it was 10 games," Kevin Duckworth said after the Bullets' 99-84 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. "I just knew it was a lot."
Whatever it was, it's gone.
"We deserve to get some wins," Duckworth said. "These guys have been working hard and concentrating in practice through this whole thing. It just got snowballing on us. Now maybe we can get the snowball going the other way."
While the victory seemed more expected than appreciated, the Bullets had plenty of reason to celebrate.
Their defense, giving up more than 107 points a game, the second-worst in the NBA, posted its best game of the season. After the first quarter, the Bullets held the Timberwolves to 53 points on 37 percent shooting. And Duckworth had his best game as a Bullet, registering season highs in points (17) and rebounds (11) to support a 24-point performance by Don MacLean.
The best news of all may have come midway through the fourth quarter, when the Timberwolves ran off six points to get within 88-78.
The Target Center crowd was making noise for the first time since the first quarter, and the Bullets appeared headed down a road they've traveled many times this season. Duckworth ended it all with an offensive rebound and dunk that provided an exclamation point for the Bullets' first victory since Nov. 27.
"We're glad to get off the streak -- anybody would be," coach Wes Unseld said.
"But if you look at the teams we played, there's maybe one or two teams we should have beaten. We played well in a lot of those games.
"We just don't have that go-to person to put us over the hump."
They didn't need one last night, because Unseld slowed the pace once the Bullets took a double-digit lead early in the fourth quarter.
The pace was established in the first half, when the Timberwolves proved to be gracious hosts, stepping aside for the Bullets' frontcourt of Tom Gugliotta, MacLean and Duckworth.
They combined for 33 points in the half, and the Bullets built a 52-47 halftime edge despite a combined 4-for-13 performance from guards Michael Adams and Rex Chapman.
The Bullets committed just three first-half turnovers while forcing nine and holding Minnesota to 16 points in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Duckworth controlled the inside early, scoring 11 points and grabbing four rebounds in the first quarter.
Chapman, Adams and Calbert Cheaney were a combined 9-for-36, including 0-for-8 from Cheaney. But the Bullets got a key contribution from Pervis Ellison, who blocked three shots in 13 minutes, plus 16 points and 14 rebounds from Gugliotta.
The Timberwolves are off to the best start in the brief history of the franchise at 8-14, but the Bullets' victory was not too surprising. The Timberwolves' 3-8 home mark ranked 25th in the NBA going into last night's games, and they had lost five of their past six at home.
Gugliotta scored six points in an eight-point run that gave the Bullets a 12-6 lead, but the Bullets had trouble with Christian Laettner, whose 13 first-quarter points gave the Wolves a 31-29 lead at the end of the period.
Chapman and Adams warmed up in the third quarter, combining for six points in a 12-4 run that expanded the Bullets' lead to 72-61 with four minutes left in the period.
Minnesota coach Sidney Lowe berated his team during a timeout, and the Timberwolves responded with six points before Duckworth stopped the rally with a dunk.