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Seattle (17-15) at Minnesota (18-15) 8:00 pm EST ---------------------------------------------------------------- MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Pardon the Minnesota Timberwolves if they don't wish the NBA schedulemaker a Happy New Year.

In one of the more grueling stretches of their season, the Timberwolves will play for the third time in four days Thursday night when they entertain the Seattle SuperSonics.

Minnesota has lost six of its last nine games and is coming off one of the low points of the season, a 115-108 loss to the Washington Wizards.

Kevin Garnett scored 21 points in the first half for Minnesota, but Washington's Juwan Howard answered the challenge, holding Garnett without a rebound in the middle two quarters and providing the game's key offensive stretch in the final period. Howard finished with 22 points.

Washington came into the game just 6-25, with a 3-11 record at home.

Garnett is averaging 23.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game this season, which leads Minnesota. Terrell Brandon is scoring 15.5 ppg and dishing out seven assists per game.

Seattle dropped its first game of the new year, 91-83, to the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night to end a five-game home winning streak.

Vin Baker and Rashard Lewis scored 14 points apiece for Seattle, which had not lost at home since a 111-104 setback to Houston on December 9.

All-Star guard Gary Payton, who had scored in double figures in 70 straight games, had just six points on 3-of-9 shooting to go with 10 assists. He picked up two fouls in the opening quarter and one in the second before sitting out the rest of the half. He scored just two points in the second half.

Seattle is 7-10 on the road, including 6-6 against Western Conference opponents. Minnesota is 11-5 at the Target Center this season, but went just 3-3 on its six-game homestand prior to the game against Washington.

This is the first meeting between the two teams this season.

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