Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 2)

Series starts 12/21

Game 1: Tuesday, December 21st
Game 2: Thursday, February 17th

Timberwolves 97

(15-9, 8-6 away)

Cavaliers 107

(15-10, 10-2 home)

    Coverage: KSTC

    7:00 PM ET, December 21, 2004

    Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH

    1 2 3 4 T
    MIN 22 21 24 3097
    CLE 29 29 19 30107

    Top Performers

    Min: K. Garnett 26 Pts, 13 Reb, 6 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

    Cle: L. James 26 Pts, 6 Reb, 12 Ast, 1 Stl

    Ilgauskas adds 25, McInnis 21 to the Cavs' cause

    CLEVELAND (AP) -- The M-V-P chants began somewhere in the upper deck of Gund Arena and floated down toward the floor. This time, they weren't directed at Kevin Garnett.

    LeBron James was the target.

    "I didn't hear them," the Cavaliers' star said. "I heard the roar."

    James scored 26 points with 12 assists and six rebounds, and Cleveland answered every time Minnesota threatened in the fourth quarter for a 107-97 victory over the Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

    Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 25 points, and Jeff McInnis had 21 for the Cavaliers, who kept their poise down the stretch against one of the Western Conference's top teams one game after blowing a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter and losing to Boston.

    "We had a bad taste in our mouths after Boston," Cavs forward Drew Gooden said. "We knew we had to make plays."

    James made more than a few and the Cavaliers were able to hold off the Timberwolves, who crept back by making four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. The last one, by Sam Cassell, brought Minnesota within 99-91 with 1:32 to go.

    McInnis, though, hit a pair of free throws and after Cassell missed a 3-pointer, Cleveland's point guard fed Gooden in the lane for a dunk -- the Cavaliers' 10th slam -- to make it 103-91 with 1:09 remaining, ending Minnesota's comeback.

    Garnett, last season's league MVP, had 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists for the Timberwolves. Cassell added 19 points, and Troy Hudson 15 -- 10 in a 2:24 span of the fourth -- as Minnesota, playing without forward Latrell Sprewell, stormed back.

    The Timberwolves were within 83-74 when James re-entered the game after sitting for 2:34. He immediately hit a 19-foot baseline fadeaway, a runner from 11 and made two free throws as the Cavs regained control.

    Later, he grabbed a rebound, pushed the ball up the floor and whipped a pass underneath to Gooden, whose dunk gave Cleveland a 99-88 lead.

    He took over the game the way an MVP does. And while it's much too early to think that far ahead, James' coach and teammates believe he'll be in the running for a few awards when the season is over.

    "Well, the reigning MVP is a monster," Cleveland coach Paul Silas said. "But LeBron played very well. When we needed it, he provided it. Big shots, big rebounds, whatever we needed."

    Garnett admires James' game, but isn't quite ready to nominate him for any postseason honors.

    "He's a lot more aggressive this year," Garnett said. "He understands the game a lot more. He's picking and choosing when to attack. His jump shot is 100 percent better. He's totally confident -- you can see that."

    Minnesota coach Flip Saunders thought his team played selfishly.

    "We just didn't play the right way," he said. "We looked too much for our own shots instead of moving the ball."

    With Ilgauskas scoring 17 points, McInnis 13 and James 12, Cleveland shot 59 percent (24-of-41) from the floor to open a 58-43 halftime lead. The Cavs got 14 of those points on seven dunks, including a spectacular alley-oop by James.

    Cavaliers rookie forward Anderson Varejao, quickly becoming a Cleveland fan favorite with his fearless hustle and frizzy hairstyle, made a sensational play in the first half.

    After ripping the ball from Garnett near the foul line, the 6-foot-10 Brazilian drove the length of the floor, wrapped the ball around his back and scored on a soft, left-handed scoop.

    "That looked like me," James joked. "I would have dunked it though."

    Cavs guard Eric Snow returned from a one-game suspension for his argument with Silas and scored four points in 17 minutes.

    Game notes

    Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert, who reportedly offered $375 million to buy the Cavaliers and the rights to Gund Arena, met with owner Gordon Gund on Wednesday. Gund also addressed his players at the morning shootaround, briefing them on negotiations and telling them he might remain a minority owner after selling the team. Gund bought the club in 1983 for $20 million. The deal could be finalized in the next few weeks. ... Sprewell sat with a sprained left foot. ... Minnesota is 0-5 vs. the Central Division. ... The Cavs are 6-3 against the West. ... Cleveland's nine turnovers were a season low.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 97 107
    FGM-FGA 37-84 (.440) 39-74 (.527)
    3PM-3PA 5-17 (.294) 1-5 (.200)
    FTM-FTA 18-22 (.818) 28-31 (.903)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 17-38 7-37
    Assists 20 28
    Turnovers 13 9
    Steals 5 9
    Blocks 6 4
    Fast Break Points 14 21
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 25 (0/0) 16 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 4 17

    Top Performers

    Kevin Garnett Garnett
    Points: 26
    Reb: 13
    Ast: 6
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 1
    LeBron James James
    Points: 26
    Reb: 6
    Ast: 12
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 0