MINNEAPOLIS, May 19 (Ticker) --
By all accounts, it was Kevin Garnett
Garnett lifted the Minnesota Timberwolves into the Western
Conference finals as he collected 32 points, 21 rebounds and
some overdue respect in an 83-80 victory over the Sacramento
Leading the Timberwolves into the first Game 7 in franchise
history, the pressure was on Garnett, who never had won a
playoff series before this year. As the NBA MVP, he was
expected to carry Minnesota past Sacramento.
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Kevin Garnett took matters into his own hands in Game 7.
Garnett was also pressured by Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty,
who proclaimed Wednesday as "Kevin Garnett Day." In addition,
the biggest game of his nine-year career fell on his 28th
In past playoff failures, Garnett was criticized for not taking
control of the game. This time, he grabbed it by the throat,
scoring 13 straight Minnesota points in the fourth quarter.
"I felt like I had to be aggressive," Garnett said. "I felt
like I had to be the example to everybody. I didn't want to
come out here and then later on be sitting by myself or driving
home and wondering if I could've done more. I wasn't going to
be in that position. I was going to let it all hang out."
"In this situation -- with the impact of the game -- he's maybe
never been better," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders
And when the Kings made another of the last-gasp rallies that
have dotted this series, Garnett made two big defensive plays --
his fourth steal and fifth block -- that was just enough to seal
"There was a ton of pressure on him, but had an amazing calm
about him," saunders said. "He didn't even have to work
tonight. He was in such a flow offensively and defensively."
"I told Flip, 'Don't take me out, or I'm gonna tell (owner) Glen
Taylor on you,'" said Garnett, who played 46 minutes.
In the conference finals, the top-seeded Timberwolves host the
Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 on Friday. The Lakers beat the
Wolves in six games in the first round last year, but Minnesota
won three of four meetings this season.
It certainly wasn't the Kings' day. They led for just 64
seconds as their normally reliable shooting let them down,
making less than 40 percent (32-of-81) from the field.
When Chris Webber
's potential tying 3-pointer rattled in and out
at the buzzer, Sacramento became just the second team in NBA
history to lose a Game 7 in three straight years, joining
the 1960-62 Lakers.
"The last two years we've been on the road (in Game 7),"
Kings coach Rick Adelman
said. "It's tough to win on the road
Minnesota was clinging to a 64-62 lead when Garnett took over.
In a four-minute span, he made a jumper, an inside basket, a
scoop layup and a dunk after a nasty crossover dribble that left
Webber swiping at air and opened a 74-68 lead.
After Sacramento's Brad Miller
made a layup, Garnett saved a
broken play, beating the shot clock with a 3-pointer for a 77-70
lead with 3:36 to go.
"I looked up, the first thing I saw it was a short clock, and I
just let it go," he said.
"That's why he is the MVP," teammate Latrell Sprewell
"That type of performance, especially with the attention they
were paying to him. They were sending guys from everywhere."
, who had 23 points and seven assists, made two free
throws at the 3:10 mark before the Kings stormed back, closing
to 79-75 before Garnett stole a pass, drew a foul and made a
free throw with 31 seconds left.
, who scored 21 points, made it 81-80 with a
3-pointer with 16 seconds to play. After two more free throws
by Cassell, Christie fired an airball 3-pointer and Garnett
blocked Miller's layup out of bounds with 2.5 seconds remaining.
Webber used a headfake to shake Garnett but missed at the horn.
"I definitely thought the last shot was good," he said. "I gave
a little pump-fake, set my feet and it did everything but go
in. I couldn't believe it came out."
Sprewell scored 14 points and Wally Szczerbiak
added 10 off the
bench -- all in the second quarter -- for the Wolves. Webber had
16 points and eight boards and Mike Bibby
had 15, eight and
eight assists for the Kings.
Kings All-Star forward Peja Stojakovic
, considered the best
shooter in the NBA, made just 3-of-12 shots and scored eight
Stojakovic's struggles led to Sacramento digging a 41-31
halftime hole. The Kings found the range in the third quarter,
taking a 60-58 lead with a 15-3 run late in the period.