MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves are closing in on the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
"I think homecourt is big to everybody," said Kevin Garnett, who had 24 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists Friday night in Minnesota's 106-90 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
"Homecourt is always where your heart is, and everybody is fighting for that."
Minnesota (49-31) moved into fourth place in the Western Conference playoff race with Portland's loss to Memphis.
Wally Szczerbiak added 19 points for Minnesota, which had lost five of its last seven but now leads the Trail Blazers and the streaking Los Angeles Lakers by a half-game each.
Those two teams play on Sunday, when the Timberwolves host Chicago. The No. 4 seed gets the home-court advantage for the expanded first-round series.
"We're just trying to control our own destiny and get home court," Szczerbiak said. "That's our main goal."
Elton Brand had 20 points, and Corey Maggette 18 for the Clippers (24-55), who lost their ninth straight on the road.
They began a back-and-forth second half with an 18-12 run that cut the Wolves' lead to 61-58.
Then Minnesota, which shot 72 percent (13-for-18) in the third, outscored Los Angeles 13-2 over the final three minutes of the period to take an 85-65 lead on Marc Jackson's pull-up 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Clippers cut it to 90-83 on Eric Piatkowski's layup with eight minutes to go, but they didn't score again until a jumper by Sean Rooks with 2:15 left.
"We definitely thought it was our turn," Brand said, "but you have to give them credit, because they fought hard. They really wanted that victory."
If both the Wolves and the Lakers win out -- they finish by hosting Denver and playing at Golden State -- they'll meet in the first round with the three-time defending champs winning the tiebreaker for the fourth seed.
That would make it tough for Minnesota to end its string of six straight opening-round exits, but the Timberwolves are trying to avoid thoughts about potential postseason opponents.
"It's important to focus game-by-game," Garnett said. "Don't dilute yourself or your team by thinking about it."
After a 39-43 record last year and the summer acquisition of point guard Andre Miller, many thought the Clippers could challenge for a playoff spot.
Instead, they're winding down yet another not-so-classic season.
With Lamar Odom a late scratch because of a sore left ankle, Los Angeles used its 23rd different starting lineup this year.
"We missed his play out on the floor," coach Dennis Johnson said. "But we've been facing that all year."
Notes: Gary Trent had 12 points for the Timberwolves. They're 15-1 when he scores 10 points or more. ... Garnett tied a Wolves' season record with his 61st game with 20 points or more. Tony Campbell did it in 1989-90.
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