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San Antonio looking ahead to first round vs. Nuggets

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Kevin Garnett quietly sneaked out the back
door, avoiding the media on the last night of the Minnesota
Timberwolves' disappointing season.

It was a fitting finish to a chapter in Timberwolves history
that few will want to talk about again.

Ndudi Ebi had a career-high 18 points and eight rebounds and
Michael Olowokandi had 10 points and 14 boards as Minnesota capped
its season with a 95-73 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on
Wednesday night.

"It was a very disappointing season because the expectations
were so high," interim coach Kevin McHale said. "We had a lot of
depth, a lot of length, a lot of quickness. It just didn't
materialize. And that's a travesty."

The Spurs were uninterested for most of the game, already having
locked up the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. They will open
the playoffs on Sunday at home against Denver.

Tim Duncan played just 23 minutes and the Spurs were
outrebounded 58-39, outscored in the paint 54-20 and trailed by as
many as 27 points.

"It's mind-boggling," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
"Sometimes things just don't work out."

For the Timberwolves, it was an anticlimactic ending to a season
filled with contract squabbles, a coaching change and uninspired
effort, the last of which completely befuddled the blue-collar
McHale.

When McHale took over in February after firing longtime coach
and friend Flip Saunders, he preached work ethic, hustle and
defense. But the Wolves didn't exhibit any of those traits on a
consistent basis, limping to a 19-12 finish and missing the
playoffs for the first time in nine seasons.

Last year, the Timberwolves seemed poised to enter the NBA's
elite when they broke a string of seven straight first-round
playoff exits and advanced to the Western Conference finals.

But they took a massive step back this year. Garnett was his
typical outstanding self, but a nagging knee injury kept him just
short of the level he reached last season when he was named MVP,
and Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell were nowhere close to the same
players they were last season.

Garnett left the court for the final time this season with 10
minutes to go in the fourth, receiving a stirring standing ovation
from an appreciative home crowd and even McHale himself.

Garnett finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds and Trenton
Hassell added 19 points.

But Garnett's silence after the game spoke volumes for the
season he has endured. Normally accessible and talkative after
games, Garnett shooed away a few reporters who tried to chase him
down as he headed to his vehicle.

"Knowing how competitive he is, I know it kills him," Duncan
said of Garnett. "I know from every game I played him that for him
to be out of the playoffs, it hurts tremendously."

Glenn Robinson scored 16 points to lead the Spurs, who are
headed back to the playoffs, looking to improve on last year's
disappointing finish. San Antonio led the Lakers 2-0 in the second
round before losing four straight.

Duncan, who scored just three points on 1-for-8 shooting, said
he was "about 75 to 80 percent" recovered from his sprained ankle
and will use the three days off to continue to heal.

"There's just a couple of things I'm tentative about doing,"
he said. "But a lot of it is more conscious than anything, trying
to protect myself."

The Spurs will have to be much better against the Nuggets, who
have been on a tear since George Karl took over as coach.

"They're a very hot team," Duncan said. "They've been playing
very well for the second half of the season under coach Karl. We'll
have to be ready to play very well out of the gates."

Game notes
Before the game, the Timberwolves showed a short video
tribute to former teammate Malik Sealy, who was killed in a car
accident on May 20, 2000. ... The Timberwolves honored three
students from Red Lake High School and their families at an
intermission in the first quarter. The students survived a shooting
at the school last month in which a 16-year-old boy killed five
students, a teacher, and an unarmed security guard before killing
himself.