Minnesota wins series 4-1 (Game 2 of 5)

Minnesota wins series 4-1

Game 1: Sunday, April 18th
Game 2: Wednesday, April 21st
Game 3: Saturday, April 24th
Game 4: Tuesday, April 27th
Game 5: Friday, April 30th

Coverage: FSW

8:30 PM ET, April 21, 2004

Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

1 2 3 4 T
DEN 27 9 18 2781
MIN 28 22 16 2995

Top Performers

Denver: V. Lenard 24 Pts, 3 Reb, 1 Ast

Minnesota: K. Garnett 20 Pts, 22 Reb, 10 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 Blk

Spree nets 31, KG goes triple-double

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- With Sam Cassell shut down, Latrell Sprewell broke loose and Kevin Garnett gave his usual all-around effort.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have three go-to guys, and that's why they're the top seed in the tough Western Conference.

Sprewell scored 31 points, Garnett posted his third career playoff triple-double and the Timberwolves beat the Denver Nuggets 95-81 Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round Western Conference playoff series.

"There's a reason Minnesota won 58 games," Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "They're a team that goes beyond a superstar."

The best-of-seven series shifts to Denver for the next two games, with Game 3 set for Saturday night.

"We did our part," Sprewell said. "It's going to be tough."

Voshon Lenard led the Nuggets with 24 points, but only nine came in the final three quarters. Rookie of the Year runner-up Carmelo Anthony continued his quiet postseason with 15 points, nine rebounds and 5-for-11 shooting. Denver had only 14 assists, and Bzdelik accepted some blame for his team's lack of movement.

"They did a great job defensively," he said, "but we also helped them by getting too random on offense, not moving the basketball and moving our bodies like we've done so well during the year."

Garnett's self-assessment?

"I played like garbage," he said after shooting 9-for-27. He still finished with 20 points, 22 rebounds and 10 assists, and now has 42 rebounds in two games.

"That's why he's the MVP," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. "His average game is better than everyone else's best game."

Indeed, the Wolves are halfway to winning their first playoff series, and Garnett hasn't led them in scoring in either game. Cassell had 40 points in Game 1, and Sprewell went 7-for-8 from 3-point range in Wednesday's win.

"It was Spree's night," said Cassell, who finished with 12 points on 6-for-17 shooting. "It's cool, it's cool. I don't mind playing the goat."

Wally Szczerbiak added 11 points off the bench for Minnesota, which traded for Cassell and Sprewell last summer in an offseason overhaul of the roster. A better bench and a new pair of standout sidekicks for Garnett has put the Wolves in great shape to make a serious run toward a title.

"This is a beautiful reality," Garnett said.

Sprewell and Lenard opened with an impressive 12-minute duel. They exchanged some trash talk, played soft defense on each other and led their teams to a 1980s-style score at the end of the quarter -- 28-27 in favor of the Wolves.

The Nuggets started turning over the ball, though, got stagnant and scored just nine points in the second quarter. Sprewell hit a long jumper to put the Wolves ahead 46-35 with 1:22 left, and the lead never got below double digits after that.

Bzdelik didn't single anyone out, but Anthony was clearly one of the players who wasn't active enough on offense.

"I'm speechless," Anthony said. "I don't really know what happened."

Sprewell was shooting so well that he shook his head in disbelief when Saunders took him out with 1:11 remaining in the first half with just two fouls.

"I'm on fire," Sprewell pleaded.

Garnett wasn't happy, either, shouting toward the bench, "Where's HE going?"

The damage was already done to Denver, however. The Wolves scored four more points before the buzzer to build their biggest lead of the half, 50-36.

The Nuggets, beaten badly on the pick-and-roll in Game 1, tightened their defense on Cassell and forced him into some ill-advised shots. Denver shored up the middle, too, with Nene and Marcus Camby hounding Garnett all night and evening out the huge rebounding edge that Minnesota owned Sunday.

But Anthony, who averaged 21 points during the regular season, once again failed to make an impact. The 19-year-old is now 11-for-28 from the floor in his first two playoff games.

"It's discouraging, because it's like they embarrassed us twice," he said.<

^Notes: Point guards Andre Miller and Earl Boykins had 12 points apiece for Denver. ... The nine points allowed by Minnesota in the second quarter were both a season low and a franchise playoff low, breaking the previous mark of 10 in both categories. The NBA postseason record for fewest points in a quarter is five, set by Portland in 1999 against Utah. ... Lenard, only 3-for-9 from the floor in Game 1, was a standout for the University of Minnesota in the early 1990s. ... Garnett had two triple-doubles in a 2000 playoff series against Portland.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 81 95
FGM-FGA 31-76 (.408) 37-79 (.468)
3PM-3PA 2-8 (.250) 8-15 (.533)
FTM-FTA 17-23 (.739) 13-16 (.813)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-38 9-38
Assists 14 25
Turnovers 13 12
Steals 9 5
Blocks 1 4
Fast Break Points 6 7
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (0/0) 25 (2/0)

Top Performers

Voshon Lenard Lenard
Points: 24
Reb: 3
Ast: 1
Stl: 0
Blk: 0
Kevin Garnett Garnett
Points: 20
Reb: 22
Ast: 10
Stl: 1
Blk: 3