<
>

Forward has three cracked vertebrae

DENVER -- Minnesota forward Wally Szczerbiak is expected to
be out for at least the rest of the Timberwolves' playoff series
against Denver after cracking three vertebrae in his back.

Szczerbiak was injured in the fourth quarter of the Nuggets'
107-86 victory Saturday when he was fouled from behind by Chris
Andersen and landed on his back. Tests on Monday showed cracks on
the wings of three vertebrae.

"It has been an unlucky year," said Szczerbiak, who missed the
first half of the season with a foot injury. "The team has done
well without me. I will be there to support them and hopefully I
can get better."

Szczerbiak was injured on a breakaway when he was bumped from
behind by Andersen. Szczerbiak tried to hold himself up by the rim,
but his hands slipped and he landed on the middle of his back. He
stayed in the game to shoot the free throws, but couldn't come back
in after his back tightened up on the bench.

Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said Szczerbiak had trouble
putting his shoes on after the game and had quite a bit of swelling
on Monday.

"It shows how tough Wally is," Saunders said. "The guy took
that fall which is one of the nastiest falls you'll see and wanted
to continue to play until we took him out of the game."

Szczerbiak, an All-Star for the Timberwolves in 2002, averaged
10.3 points in the first three games against Denver. His injury is
similar to one the Vikings' Daunte Culpepper suffered in an
end-zone collision last season. Culpepper missed three weeks.

Minnesota also has played the first three games of the series
without backup point guard Troy Hudson, who's expected to have
surgery soon on a chronically sprained right ankle.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, will likely be without two key reserves
for Game 4 on Tuesday night.

Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said forward Rodney White is doubtful
after spraining his ankle Saturday. Forward Ryan Bowen might not
play after bruising his ribs during practice last week.