Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 12/3

Game 1: Friday, December 3rd
Game 2: Tuesday, January 4th
Game 3: Wednesday, February 2nd
Game 4: Friday, April 1st

Timberwolves 98

(38-35, 17-20 away)

Suns 107

(55-17, 26-9 home)

7:00 PM ET, April 1, 2005

US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

1 2 3 4 T
MIN 23 26 20 2998
PHX 30 16 28 33107

Top Performers

Min: K. Garnett 15 Pts, 15 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

PHX: S. Nash 28 Pts, 2 Reb, 11 Ast

Nash leads Phoenix down the stretch

PHOENIX (AP) -- Everybody knows Steve Nash can pass. On Friday night, he reminded the Minnesota Timberwolves that he can shoot, too.

Nash scored 12 of his 28 points in the last 9 minutes and had two big assists in the last 90 seconds to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 107-98 victory that snapped the Timberwolves' five-game winning streak.

"He's just going to dribble around until he finds somebody or he finds a space," Minnesota's Trenton Hassell said. "It's hard when you've got a player who's that good that looks for his pass but yet he's a threat of scoring, too."

The loss was a serious blow to Minnesota's chances of catching Denver or Memphis for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Amare Stoudemire, back after missing two games because of inflammation in his left ankle, added 22 points and nine rebounds in the Suns' fourth consecutive victory, boosting their NBA-best record to 55-17.

Nash had 11 assists, the last two on a 3-pointer by Joe Johnson as the shot clock expired with 1:50 left and a lob for a fast-break stuff by Shawn Marion on a three-point play that made it 106-95 with 1:30 to play. Nash made 10-of-15 shots, 4-of-5 in the fourth quarter.

"It's always a fine line for a playmaker to be aggressive or be a playmaker," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "You can't be all-playmaker, you can't be all-aggressive. I think he's the best at straddling that line -- always being a threat and always trying to find somebody."

Wally Szczerbiak scored 18 points, and Kevin Garnett had 15 points and 15 rebounds for Minnesota, playing its second road game in two nights. Hassell added 15 points, and Eddie Griffin had 12 points and 15 rebounds.

"We had the pace where we needed it for a while," Timberwolves coach Kevin McHale said, "then they got it up on us."

All five Phoenix starters hit double figures. Quentin Richardson scored 18 points, including 5-of-11 3-pointers. Johnson added 15 points. Marion was just 5-for-22 shooting for 14 points but grabbed 16 rebounds.

The ninth-place Timberwolves (38-35) fell three games behind Denver and Memphis in the Western Conference standings with nine to play.

With their team finally playing well after an underachieving season, the Timberwolves weren't conceding things yet.

"We had our chances tonight, man," Sam Cassell said. "If we continue to get this effort that we're getting, I feel good about our chances of making the playoffs."

The Suns outscored Minnesota 16-6 over the last 4:24 after Griffin's 3-pointer gave the Timberwolves a 92-91 lead with 4:44 left.

Phoenix had to weather a 6-minute second-quarter scoring drought.

"I like to pass the ball, so sometimes I get a little too pass-oriented," said Nash, the NBA assists leader. "But I realized on a night like tonight, when we went on a long stretch where we just couldn't make a shot, that we can't get our heads down or lose confidence.

"So I felt like I really wanted to just lead by example and keep being aggressive and being confident in my teammates."

Down 39-25 with 8:55 left in the first half, the Timberwolves went on a 22-2 run, most of it without Garnett on the floor. With the Suns misfiring on jump shots, Minnesota caught Phoenix at 41-41 on Griffin's three-point play. Garnett's inside basket with 2:53 capped the outburst and put the Timberwolves ahead 47-41. Minnesota was up 49-46 at the break.

Phoenix regained the lead 53-51 on Richardson's 3-pointer, and the Suns used a 5-0 spurt to make it 72-64 after Stoudemire made one of two free throws with 1:40 left in the third quarter. Griffin missed two free throws with six-tenths of a second left in the third, and Phoenix led 74-69 going into the fourth.

The Timberwolves came back again, scoring seven straight points on Fred Hoiberg's 3-pointer and a pair of baskets by Cassell give Minnesota an 80-79 lead with 8:57 to play.

Game notes

Garnett was selected the Western Conference player of the month for March. ... Nash's team-record 13-game string of double-digit assist games is the longest since Mark Jackson's 14-game streak for Denver in 1996-97. ... Phoenix was 6-of-22 from the field and scored 16 points in the second quarter. ... The Suns won the season series 3-1. Minnesota swept Phoenix 4-0 last season.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 98 107
FGM-FGA 38-88 (.432) 39-94 (.415)
3PM-3PA 4-20 (.200) 14-30 (.467)
FTM-FTA 18-30 (.600) 15-25 (.600)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 18-63 13-48
Assists 19 23
Turnovers 16 7
Steals 5 6
Blocks 3 3
Fast Break Points 8 19
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 26 (1/0) 20 (1/0)
Largest Lead 6 14

Top Performers

Kevin Garnett Garnett
Points: 15
Reb: 15
Ast: 3
Stl: 2
Blk: 1
Steve Nash Nash
Points: 28
Reb: 2
Ast: 11
Stl: 0
Blk: 0