David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images
Rashard Lewis scored 21 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's win.
MINNEAPOLIS, March 27 (AP) -- Instead of putting away Seattle, the Minnesota Timberwolves gave away the game - and maybe their chance to make the playoffs.
Up by 25 points with five minutes left in the third quarter, Minnesota was outscored 51-18 the rest of the way and 25-2 to end the game, losing 114-106 to the SuperSonics on Tuesday night after the biggest blown lead in franchise history.
"It's been the same thing all year,'' Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. "We play the right way for three quarters. ... We either don't respect the game or don't respect the opponent. It comes back to get you every time.''
The loss was a serious blow to Minnesota's playoff chances, as the Wolves entered Tuesday 3+ games back of the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. Instead of gaining ground, Minnesota was left to contemplate its biggest blown lead in the history of the team, surpassing a 22-point blown lead to Dallas on December 18, 2001. The Wolves' biggest blown advantage this season was 17 points against Charlotte on Feb. 21.
"For some reason, I didn't initiate and keep us together down the stretch, and that bothers me,'' Wolves forward Kevin Garnett said. "We got a great lead, but in the second half I didn't keep us aggressive like we should have.''
Instead, Lewis was the aggressor for the final 12 minutes - attacking the basket on offense while slowing Garnett on defense.
"We went to him at the end of the game when we had to have them and he came through,'' Seattle coach Bob Hill said.
Garnett finished one assists shy of a triple-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds, but he and the rest of the Wolves didn't much care after being embarrassed in the final 18 minutes of the game.
It was a complete reversal from the first half, as Minnesota raced out to an early advantage.
The Wolves (30-40) tied a season best with 34 first-quarter points, then set a season high with 35 second-quarter points. Minnesota shot 60 percent in the half en route to a season-best 71 first-half points and a 19-point lead.
After leading by as many as 21 in the first half, the Wolves extended the lead to 25 points on Trenton Hassell's jump shot with 5:02 to play in the third quarter. But not wanting a repeat of its worst loss of the season two days prior - a 41-point defeat to San Antonio - Seattle tightened up defensively and started its comeback.
"We pretty much figured we would lose the game, but we tried not to get embarrassed,'' Lewis said. "We were embarrassed the other night against San Antonio. Then the lead kept getting smaller and we saw that we had a chance.''
The deficit was still 15 points after three quarters, but Minnesota went cold in the fourth as the team stopped sharing the ball and went 4-for-15 from the floor.
"In the second half we faltered, we weren't moving the ball as well and just weren't playing team ball,'' Wolves guard Mike James said. "We allowed them to get some life, and from there we lost our life. It's almost like they sucked our energy from us and took over from there.''
Little-used guard Mike Wilks led the charge early, helping shift the momentum with six points and three assists in 18 second-half minutes after not playing in four of Seattle's last five games. Lewis took over late, finishing off the comeback with eight of the Sonics' last 15 points after Ricky Davis scored Minnesota's last point on a free throw with 3:19 remaining.
Davis led five Wolves in double-figures with 21 points.
Notes: Wolves rookie Craig Smith entered Tuesday's game averaging 18.3 points in three tries against Seattle this season - his highest average against any team by six points. ... Seattle swingman Damien Wilkins - a 42.4 percent shooter this season - came into Tuesday's game shooting 25.7 percent (9-for-35) in three games since taking over Ray Allen's spot in the starting lineup. He was a quiet 2-for-6 with four points against the Wolves. "Damien has to let the game come to him instead of trying to force himself on the game,'' coach Bob Hill said. "I've told him that for going on almost two years now. I think with Ray gone he feels the pressure of having to score and sometimes he ends up rushing himself or dribbling into bad positions instead of just taking what is given to him.'' ... Seattle won the season series 3-1.