MINNEAPOLIS, May 8 (Ticker) --
Just when the Minnesota Timberwolves
appeared on the verge of a catastrophic collapse, the Sacramento
Kings provided one of their own.
The Kings missed their last eight shots as they blew a 10-point
lead in the final four minutes, wasting a terrific comeback in a
94-89 loss to the Timberwolves, who saved their season.
On the verge of digging itself a hole perhaps too deep to climb
out of, top-seeded Minnesota rode clutch shooting from Sam Cassell
, salvaged Game 2 and evened the Western Conference
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Cassell leads the way:
Kevin Garnett and the Wolves stuffed the Kings down the stretch.
"This was just about sheer will and character," Timberwolves
superstar Kevin Garnett
said. "We knuckled down."
"You gotta keep playing," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "We
played a great game for 44 minutes. Unfortunately, the game is
48 minutes. We got what we deserved. You have to play 48."
Cassell scored eight of his 19 points in the last three minutes,
fueling a 16-1 run that closed the game and had the Target
Center in a panic. Just minutes earlier, the sellout crowd had
grown deathly quiet as Sacramento opened an 88-78 lead.
"It was looking like we were going down 2-0, but we knew what we
had to do," Cassell said. "Down 10 with four (minutes) to go,
no need to point fingers, no need crying over spilt milk."
After a drive by Latrell Sprewell
and two free throws by
Garnett, Cassell had one of his patented plays. He drove and
dished to Garnett, recovered the deflected pass, dribbled to the
corner and drilled a 3-pointer to make it 88-85 with 2:36 left.
"Sam is that way," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "He is
either going to win it or lose it for us. He's gonna take the
shots. With Sam it, isn't how many he scores; it's when he
Cassell, who scored 40 points in Game 1, added a pull-up
jumper and two more free throws by Garnett gave Minnesota the
lead for good at the 1:45 mark.
After Sacramento's Doug Christie
missed a pair of foul shots,
Cassell spun away from a defender for a baseline jumper and a
91-88 lead with 24 seconds to play.
Christie missed a potential tying 3-pointer. Two free throws by
finally sealed it.
"That was probably the biggest win I have ever had at the Target
Center," Garnett said.
Garnett had 28 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. But the NBA
MVP was invisible as the Timberwolves missed 12 of their first
13 shots of the fourth quarter.
"I felt like I was out of rhythm," Garnett said. "I didn't have
the kind of game I wanted, but we knuckled down on defense, we
shut down the paint. I was trying to simplify things and make
scored 26 points and Chris Webber
added 21 for
the Kings, who host Game 3 on Monday. Minnesota won twice
at Sacramento this season.
"This is a game we definitely should have had," Kings guard Mike Bibby
said. "We gave it away. We shot poorly. You always
hate to lose, but this is a game we should have won."
Hoiberg scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half as
Minnesota opened a 49-39 lead. Sacramento closed to 73-70 after
three quarters and opened the final period with eight straight
Cassell made a jumper, but the Kings kept charging. Christie
made a 3-pointer and a layup for a 10-point lead with 4:11 to
play, prompting a timeout by the Wolves.
Sprewell bounced back nicely, scoring 15 points and slowing down
Bibby. After scoring 33 points in Game 1 - primarily on
Cassell - Bibby had 10 on 4-of-17 shooting.
"We kept bigger players on Bibby," Saunders said. "Mike has
been playing phenomenal. I think he really torched us in Game
1. Spree had great energy tonight and did a great job on him