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
"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
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
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.