Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 11/22

Game 1: Monday, November 22nd
Game 2: Tuesday, December 7th
Game 3: Sunday, March 13th
Game 4: Tuesday, March 15th

Timberwolves 100

(33-32, 15-17 away)

Mavericks 91

(41-22, 20-12 home)

Coverage: KSTC

7:30 PM ET, March 15, 2005

American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX

1 2 3 4 T
MIN 27 21 17 35100
DAL 18 17 25 3191

Top Performers

Min: K. Garnett 25 Pts, 12 Reb, 7 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk

Dal: D. Nowitzki 21 Pts, 15 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk

Cassell's 3 pivotal in Minny's road win

DALLAS (AP) -- Now that the Minnesota Timberwolves have three key players back in the rotation, they're ready to make a push for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Sam Cassell celebrated his return by scoring 15 points, including a key 3-pointer in the closing minutes, and Kevin Garnett scored 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 100-91 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

The win puts Minnesota (33-32) a half-game behind Denver and tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the West's No. 8 seed. The Timberwolves are also 2-2 in a seven-game stretch against playoff-bound foes, with games left at San Antonio and Memphis, then home against Houston.

"We don't have a lot of time," said Garnett, who also had 12 rebounds and seven assists. "Every game is a desperate game. That has to be our mind-set."

Getting back Cassell, Michael Olowokandi and Eddie Griffin should help. Cassell had missed seven straight, and 22 of the last 33, with a strained right hamstring, while Olowokandi (knee) and Griffin (hand) both had missed the last nine games. Olowokandi had eight points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes and Griffin added three points and eight rebounds before fouling out in 15 minutes.

Look at this way: with them, Minnesota beat Dallas by nine on the road, never trailing and leading by as many as 19. Two days before, without the trio, the Timberwolves lost to the Mavericks by nine.

"It's nice to have some different people you can go to," Minnesota coach Kevin McHale said. "All three of them did a tremendous job, especially for not playing in a while."

None started, but Cassell played nearly the entire fourth quarter. He scored nine points in the period, the most important coming with 2:11 to go when his 3 from the left corner gave Minnesota a 94-87 lead. The Mavericks never got closer than five again.

"I'm limited, but I gutted it out," Cassell said. "This was a game we had to have and we got it. ... If I was healthy, we wouldn't be in this predicament right now."

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 21 points and 15 rebounds, but missed nine of his first 12 shots and finished just 6-for-19.

Dallas coach Don Nelson returned from a three-game absence to care for his wife, but couldn't help his team avoid losing at home for the fifth time in nine tries.

The Mavericks came in hoping to start a four-game homestand -- with the next three against teams definitely headed for the lottery -- with a performance that would snap them out of their home funk. Instead, they were out of sync from the start.

Jason Terry committed a foul guarding a long jumper on the game's first play, then Josh Howard absent-mindedly lost a pass out of bounds on the first offensive series. Dallas trailed 11-2 was down 38-19 with 8:31 left in the second quarter.

The Mavs, who have a two-game lead over fading Sacramento for the West's fourth seed, ended up matching their season low with 35 points at halftime, shooting just 11-of-36 (31 percent) from the field and 11-of-18 from the line, while getting outrebounded 30-18.

"We've got to come out with more energy than we had tonight," said Terry, who had 18 points. "We gave them second and third opportunities at the basket. That's going to get you every night."

Better aim and more aggressive rebounding helped Dallas get within 65-62. Minnesota led just 77-73 when Garnett stretched it with six straight points, starting with four straight free throws. The first two came after a foul by Nowitzki that turned into a double technical when the All-Stars bumped and shoved each other.

Both downplayed the incident.

"It was nothing serious," Nowitzki said. "I thought he pushed me out of the way, so I pushed back."

Added Garnett: "I don't bookmark those situations."

Game notes

Timberwolves C Mark Madsen made just his third start, replacing John Thomas, who went from starting four of five to not playing. Madsen sprained his right hand in the first half, but returned with it wrapped after X-rays showed no break. ... The Mavs aren't expecting sixth man Jerry Stackhouse (groin) off the injured list for nearly a month, just in time for the playoffs.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 100 91
FGM-FGA 36-87 (.414) 31-80 (.388)
3PM-3PA 4-8 (.500) 3-13 (.231)
FTM-FTA 24-30 (.800) 26-35 (.743)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 17-54 12-41
Assists 16 12
Turnovers 16 13
Steals 4 8
Blocks 6 11
Fast Break Points 7 18
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 28 (1/0) 26 (1/0)
Largest Lead 19 0

Top Performers

Kevin Garnett Garnett
Points: 25
Reb: 12
Ast: 7
Stl: 2
Blk: 2
Dirk Nowitzki Nowitzki
Points: 21
Reb: 15
Ast: 4
Stl: 1
Blk: 2