Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 2)

Series starts 2/15

Game 1: Tuesday, February 15th
Game 2: Saturday, March 26th

Timberwolves 96

(36-34, 16-19 away)

Nets 75

(32-38, 19-16 home)

Coverage: KSTC

1:00 PM ET, March 26, 2005

IZOD Center, East Rutherford, NJ

1 2 3 4 T
MIN 20 28 23 2596
NJ 18 17 24 1675

Top Performers

Min: S. Cassell 23 Pts, 4 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl

NJ: V. Carter 16 Pts, 4 Reb, 4 Ast, 2 Stl

Sam I Am scores 23 in just 22 minutes

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Sam Cassell had such a good game, he may have earned back his old job as Minnesota's starting point guard -- even though coach Kevin McHale wasn't willing to make that declaration.

Cassell played his best game in weeks, scoring 23 points in just 22 minutes Saturday to lead the Timberwolves to a 96-75 rout of the New Jersey Nets.

Cassell shot 10-for-13 and had four rebounds and three assists for the Timberwolves, who had a surprisingly easy time against an opponent in similar straits -- a few games out of a playoff spot with the regular season winding down.

Cassell, who has missed eight of 13 games this month and 23 of the last 39 due to a hamstring injury, had 10 points in the second quarter when Minnesota took control, then made all the big plays at the start of the fourth quarter when the Wolves put the game out of reach.

It helped the Timberwolves survive a sluggish game from Kevin Garnett, who had 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists but shot 0-for-7 in the first half.

"He looks good, man. He looks like the old Sam," said Garnett, who was noncommittal on whether he would endorse moving Cassell back into the starting five in place of Troy Hudson.

Cassell hasn't started a game since Feb. 8, and he's reached 20 points just twice since Jan. 7.

But with Hudson contributing little on a consistent basis and Minnesota trying to make up ground on the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, it may be time to reinsert Cassell for the final 12 games of the season.

"We'll see how everything shakes out," said coach Kevin McHale, declining to be more specific.

Said Cassell: "If he decides to put me back in the starting lineup, that's fine. But it doesn't matter who starts, it's who finishes. I know I'm going to be on the court in the fourth quarter."

Cassell was an All-Star last season when Minnesota had the best record in the West, but shoulder and hamstring injuries have limited him this season, and McHale has grown weary of wondering when Cassell will deem himself 100 percent.

If the hamstring injury bothered Cassell against the Nets, it didn't show.

"I know for a fact I'm a starting point guard in this league," Cassell said. "I'll do what this team needs me to do right now. I've been hurt for a while, and I need to make up for lost ground. That's what I'm trying to do."

Minnesota won its third in a row and moved two games over .500 for the first time since Feb. 2. The Timberwolves began the day ninth in the West, three games behind Denver.

Vince Carter scored 16 points and Jason Kidd had seven points, eight assists and 10 rebounds, but neither player exhibited the energy or intensity to match that of the Timberwolves.

New Jersey remained in 10th place in the Eastern Conference with its second straight loss following a five-game winning streak.

"We were very lackluster," Carter said.

"We can't come out and give games away," Kidd said. "We didn't give the effort in the last two. We were kind of passive."

Minnesota had an 11-0 run in the second quarter for a 33-20 lead, and an 18-footer by Cassell made him 5-for-6 in the quarter and gave the Timberwolves their largest lead of the first half, 44-26.

New Jersey pulled to 62-55 in the third quarter, but Cassell hit a 19-footer, rebounded a miss by Carter and then nailed a 15-footer to help get the lead back to 14 going into the fourth.

Cassell started the final period with an 18-footer and a 3-pointer, then assisted on baskets by John Thomas and Eddie Griffin to make it 80-61.

"You could feel it in the room, guys were ready to play. We knew this one of the biggest games of the season, and we took it like that," Garnett said.

Game notes

Kidd passed Terry Porter (7,160) for 10th place on the NBA's career assists list. ... Carter failed to reach 20 points for just the second time in the past 28 games. ... Minnesota improved to 14-15 against Eastern Conference teams. The Wolves were 24-6 last season. ... The win was the Wolves' first in an afternoon game. They had been 0-4, and they'll play another matinee Sunday against the Clippers. ... Minnesota won in New Jersey for the first time since March 24, 2000, snapping a four-game losing streak.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 96 75
FGM-FGA 38-81 (.469) 31-87 (.356)
3PM-3PA 3-6 (.500) 1-15 (.067)
FTM-FTA 17-23 (.739) 12-12 (1.000)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 20-53 14-36
Assists 24 23
Turnovers 17 10
Steals 7 11
Blocks 8 4
Fast Break Points 13 13
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 14 (0/0) 18 (1/0)
Largest Lead 25 2

Top Performers

New Jersey
Sam Cassell Cassell
Points: 23
Reb: 4
Ast: 3
Stl: 2
Blk: 0
Vince Carter Carter
Points: 16
Reb: 4
Ast: 4
Stl: 2
Blk: 0