Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 12/3

Game 1: Wednesday, December 3rd
Game 2: Sunday, January 25th
Game 3: Tuesday, February 17th
Game 4: Friday, March 19th

Suns 95

(18-38, 6-23 away)

    7:00 PM ET, February 17, 2004

    Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

    1 2 3 4 T
    PHX 23 27 24 2195
    MIN 31 28 19 32110

    Top Performers

    PHX: J. Johnson 25 Pts, 5 Reb, 9 Ast, 2 Stl

    Min: K. Garnett 32 Pts, 14 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk

    Spree, KG and Cassell combine for 75 points

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Latrell Sprewell started it, Kevin Garnett kept it going and Sam Cassell finished it off.

    In the end, Minnesota's "Big Three" combined for 75 points as the Timberwolves beat the Phoenix Suns 110-95 on Tuesday night for their third straight victory and 17th in 21 games.

    "We take turns," said Cassell, who had 22 points and 10 assists. "Whoever jump starts us and then somebody's got to finish it off."

    Sprewell scored 15 points in the first quarter, Garnett had 32 points and 14 rebounds and Cassell hit three straight key shots in the fourth quarter.

    "It just seems like one guy takes over certain a part of the game and continues to do that," coach Flip Saunders said.

    To be fair, Garnett seemed take over the entire game as he posted his league-leading 47th double-double. Minnesota improved to 23 games over .500 (38-15) for the first time in team history.

    "We establish the lead and want to be aggressive from the start," Garnett said. "Sam came in and hit some big shots in the fourth quarter."

    Amare Stoudemire scored 29 points and Joe Johnson added 25 for Phoenix, which has lost six straight games for the third time this season.

    "They know how to play down towards the end and we don't do a good job yet," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said.

    "All they need is to smell a little blood," said Shawn Marion, who finished with 18 points but shot just 6-for-21.

    Phoenix shot 38.4 percent from the field.

    Despite the dominance of the "Big Three," Minnesota needed a spark from its reserves at the start of the final quarter. Fred Hoiberg opened the scoring with five straight points as Minnesota extended its lead to 83-74 with 11 minutes left.

    After the Suns got within 89-85, Garnett hit a jumper and Mark Madsen made a three-point play to restore the nine-point lead.

    Cassell then made three straight jumpers to give the Wolves a 100-88 lead with 3:02 left. The Suns didn't get closer than nine points the rest of the way.

    Trailing 59-50, the Suns tightened their defense in the third quarter holding Minnesota to just 8-of-23 shooting and forcing five turnovers. On the offensive end Stoudemire went right at the Wolves, scoring 11 points in the quarter and bringing Phoenix within 78-74.

    "That's the whole point of playing harder down the stretch to get the game that close," Stoudemire said. "But we just couldn't close it off."

    Sprewell went 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the first quarter and Minnesota led 31-23 heading into the second. Johnson scored 14 points in the quarter for Phoenix.

    The Timberwolves used a 10-0 run in the second quarter to take a 45-31 lead at the 5:57 mark. The Suns were held without a field goal for nearly 3 minutes and Cassell hit three mid-range jumpers during the stretch.

    The Wolves finished the half with a 59-50 lead, after making 20 of 22 free throws.

    Troy Hudson played for the first time since reaggravating the right ankle he sprained Jan. 28 at Golden State and scored five points. He had missed eight straight games and 44 of the team's first 52.

    "I'm ready to see us all healthy and how we all flow, and to form some chemistry going up to April," Garnett said. "I think we're scary if we gain this chemistry and this flow early come the second half."

    Center Michael Olowokandi -- on the injured list since Dec. 13 -- and forward Wally Szczerbiak, who has missed all but one preseason game, both practiced without restriction on Monday. Szczerbiak, however, took an elbow from Madsen and had to get stitches above his left eye.

    Game notes

    Trenton Hassell had 10 points for Minnesota and Howard Eisley had 14 for Phoenix. ... Garnett was 12-for-12 from the foul line and the Wolves were 31-for-33. ... This was the third straight opponent Minnesota has held under 40 percent from the field. ... Cassell, who made his All-Star debut Sunday and had a team-high seven assists, also had his sore right elbow X-rayed in Los Angeles. The X-rays were negative and after the game Cassell described his injury as "wear and tear." ... Phoenix has lost eight straight at Target Center.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 95 110
    FGM-FGA 33-86 (.384) 38-77 (.494)
    3PM-3PA 6-16 (.375) 3-8 (.375)
    FTM-FTA 23-26 (.885) 31-33 (.939)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 12-35 12-44
    Assists 20 26
    Turnovers 15 15
    Steals 11 11
    Blocks 3 5
    Fast Break Points 3 9
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 26 (0/0) 22 (1/0)

    Top Performers

    Joe Johnson Johnson
    Points: 25
    Reb: 5
    Ast: 9
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 0
    Kevin Garnett Garnett
    Points: 32
    Reb: 14
    Ast: 1
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 2