MINNEAPOLIS, April 30 (Ticker) -- Kevin Garnett
got the Minnesota
Timberwolves out of trouble and out of the first round.
Garnett ended seven years of postseason frustration for himself
and his team as he scored 28 points to lead the Timberwolves to
a 102-91 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
The top-seeded Timberwolves closed out the eighth-seeded Nuggets
in five games and advanced to the Western Conference semfinals
for the first time in franchise history. They had lost their
first seven postseason series, winning just seven of 29 games.
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Kevin Garnett was three boards and two dimes shy of a triple-double in Game 5.
As the best player in franchise history, Garnett took the blame.
He was accused of being too unselfish, which tarnished his
reputation as a superstar.
"I am not a quitter," Garnett said. "I won't quit on nothing,
especially when it is something like not getting out of the
first round. It is not in me to quit."
"He is a superstar that has a blue-collar attitude, and that is
great," Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said.
After winning Game Four to grab a commanding 3-1 series lead,
the Wolves raced to a 26-point first-half lead and relaxed. The
Nuggets battled back and cut the deficit to 72-66 late in the
That's when Garnett got selfish. He closed the quarter with two
free throws, then scored eight points in the first four minutes
of the final period, taking charge of the game. His tough
fadeaway jumper made it 84-70.
"I have been in a lot of series and I have been in that position
before and I knew we needed a lift," he said. "I called all the
sets. I told the team that I am going to put it on my back. I
have learned from experience."
Minnesota led by at least nine points thereafter, and in the
final minute, a fan threw a symbolic stuffed monkey onto the
Target Center floor.
"I am very excited. I am not going to downplay it," Garnett
said. "I am eager to see what is on the other side."
Next up for Minnesota is fourth-seeded Sacramento. The Wolves
hold home-court advantage and won twice at Arco Arena during the
Last summer, Timberwolves vice president Kevin McHale gave
Garnett some help, acquiring veteran guards Sam Cassell
in trades. Garnett referred to the trio as the
"three-headed monster," and the three combined for 73 points in
Cassell, who won a pair of championships with Houston in the
mid-1990s, scored 26 points. Sprewell, who led New York to the
1999 NBA Finals, added 19.
"(Garnett) works so hard and has taken a lot of criticism,"
Sprewell said. "I am sure this is a relief for him."
had 21 points and 15 rebounds and Andre Miller
scored 21 points for the Nuggets, who were in the playoffs for
the first time since 1995. Denver played without star rookie
forward Carmelo Anthony
, who suffered a left knee sprain in Game
The Wolves jumped to a 28-19 lead after one quarter, then put
together a 24-4 run in the second period to take a 54-28 lead.
During the surge, Garnett scored eight points and the Nuggets
made just 2-of-10 shots while committing four turnovers.
But Denver ended the half with a 17-3 spurt and kept coming in
the third quarter, closing to 66-60 on Camby's three-point play.
"I broke a few things in the bathroom because I was mad at
myself for trying to get some rest (for his players) in the last
few minutes (of the first half)," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders
A 3-pointer by Jon Barry
made it 72-66 before Garnett took over.
"I just told everybody, 'Bump all this and play off me,'"
He opened the final period with a follow shot and two free
throws, then answered Miller's jumper with a turnaround jumper.
After his fadeaway, he added a free throw for an 87-72 bulge
with 6:40 left, starting the celebration.