MEMPHIS, Tenn., April 14 (Ticker) -- Kevin Garnett
and the Minnesota
Timberwolves appear ready for the responsibilities that come
with being the top seed in the Western Conference.
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Garnett scored 26 points to lead a customary three-pronged
attack as the Timberwolves locked up their first Midwest
Division title with a 107-90 victory over the slumping Memphis
The favorite for NBA MVP, Garnett led the Timberwolves to a
58-24 mark, one game better than defending champion San Antonio.
Minnesota, which closed the season with nine straight wins,
will have the home-court edge through at least the conference
"Now we have to put ourselves in position to do just that,"
Garnett said. "It's not to say that we can't adjust to a couple
of teams because we will, but for the most part, we'll just
"We said three weeks ago we were going to start playing every
game as a playoff game," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders
"We're ready to go forward, but we know it's not going to be
The Wolves and Garnett never have won a playoff series. But the
additions of Sam Cassell
and Latrell Sprewell
, a pair of
playoff-tested veterans, helped Minnesota reach new heights this
season and should continue to help in the postseason.
"This is a different team," Garnett said. "At this point, we're
not intimidated. We're going to go out and play how we know
how to play. Our confidence is high."
Sprewell, who reached the 1999 NBA Finals with the New York
Knicks, opened the game with a 3-pointer and scored 12 of his 17
points in the first quarter as Minnesota bolted to a 28-16
Garnett and Cassell scored eight points each in a 22-2 surge
that widened the bulge to 52-27 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the
Cassell, who won NBA titles with Houston in 1994 and 1995,
scored 20 points for the Wolves, who will face Denver in the
"We just have to maintain what we are doing," Cassell said. "We
have veteran guys out there. This is a different team than the
previous seven years. We aren't going to promise anything, but
I like our chances."
Headed to their first postseason appearance, the Grizzlies
(50-32) dropped six of the last seven games. Seeded sixth, they
will face the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, who have
won 11 in a row.
"This has been brutal," Memphis coach Hubie Brown said. "It's
our third game in four nights, we've been away for six nights
and now we just got told we're playing on Saturday."
scored 16 points for the Grizzlies, who are trying to
regain the chemistry that saw them become one of the best teams
in the NBA in the second half of the season.
"I don't think you can recapture (chemistry) in one practice,"
forward Shane Battier
said. "What you can do is find what made