MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Washington Bullets entered their locker room hours before yesterday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, guard Tim Legler sensed a change in mood of a team desperatelyneeding a win.
"It was like a playoff-type atmosphere for us," Legler said. "This was a team that we felt we should beat."
And the Bullets did just that, ending a season-high six-game losing streak with a 108-96 win over the Timberwolves at the Target Center.
Juwan Howard, coming off a career-high 32-point game on Friday against Indiana, scored 30 points, Legler had 21 points off the bench and Rasheed Wallace had 19 points and 12 rebounds to help the Bullets (23-27) also end an eight-game losing streak on the road. Before yesterday, the Bullets hadn't won on the road since Jan. 10 in Philadelphia.
"We felt like we needed a win badly," Howard said. "We should have won against Indiana on Friday."
The Timberwolves also considered this a must-win game.
On Friday, Minnesota played host to the Chicago Bulls and battled basket for basket with the best team in basketball before losing, 103-100. But that Minnesota team was an aberration.
The real Timberwolves (14-35), the team that doesn't share the ball, showed up yesterday. Point guard Darrick Martin led the Timberwolves with 24 points, but his three assists set the tone for a team that had just 15.
"One word explains [yesterday]. Embarrassing. From a standpoint of how we can go out and play hard against Chicago, play with intensity and play smart," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said, "and then come out and basically fall flat on our face. When you have only won 14 games, every game is important."
The Timberwolves shot 51.3 percent against the Bulls on Friday, but 41.0 percent against the Bullets. Washington's lead was 48-42 at the half, but the Bullets put the game away during a third quarter in which Wallace, facing fellow rookie Kevin Garnett, scored 11 points while hitting five of seven shots. Washington led by as many as 15 points in the third quarter and took an 80-68 lead into the final period.
"He played fabulous," Howard said. "That's the type of play we need out of Rasheed the whole second half of the season."
Wallace, the No. 4 pick in the draft, said that playing against fellow rookie Garnett didn't give him an extra incentive.
"It wasn't that I was fired up to play KG; I just wanted to win," Wallace said. "I thought we were a little more team-oriented. Coach [Jim Lynam] cussed us out the other day. He said in Chicago he sensed there was some selfishness going on with the team."
Selfish play was traded in for physical play yesterday. Howard and former Bullets forward Tom Gugliotta (15 points, four rebounds) exchanged colorful dialogue during much of the second half. Howard downplayed the bickering with Gugliotta. "He's a good player, and it's just part of the game," Howard said.
Legler, who hit five of seven three-point shots, had to be restrained from going after Martin in the fourth quarter. After Martin made a free throw, Legler was attempting to race down the court to set up in the offense. Martin caught him with an elbow to the throat.
"He caught me with the cheapest shot I got all year," Legler said.
Opponent: New Jersey Nets
Site: USAir Arena, Landover
Time: 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: HTS/WWLG (1360 AM), WTEM (570 AM)
Outlook: The Nets are in the midst of their most impressive stretch of the season, winning three straight, including two victories over the Indiana Pacers and Saturday's win over the New York Knicks. C Shawn Bradley was averaging 15.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.6 blocks in the 11 games before the weekend, and he had 11 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks against the Knicks. The Bullets have split the two games against New Jersey this season, winning 93-87 in Baltimore and losing 89-84 in New Jersey.