Ten Years Ago Today, Wolves Top Kings In Game 7
On May 19, 2004, the Timberwolves beat the Kings in the most iconic win in franchise history thanks in part to Kevin Garnett's heroics on his 28th birthday
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images
Editor’s Note: Throughout May, Timberwolves.com will pay tribute to the 2003-04 squad that finished the regular season with a franchise-best 58-24 record and reached the Western Conference Finals. Part III focuses Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals and Kevin Garnett's heroics on his 28th birthday.
It was arguably the most iconic moment in Timberwolves history. Kevin Garnett jumped atop the scorer’s table at Target Center full of elation, pointing to the sold-out Target Center crowd and signifying that the Wolves’ storybook season was not done just yet.
It was Garnett’s 28th birthday, and what a present it was. He and the Wolves advanced to the Western Conference Finals with an 83-80 win over the Sacramento Kings in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals on May 19, 2004. It was 10 years ago today that Garnett, on his birthday, scored 32 points and brought down 21 rebounds in what would be one of the defining games of his legacy in Minnesota.
“I’ve had some real special presents on my birthday, but nothing like this,” Garnett said that night.
Even 10 years later, that moment—that game—stands as the pinnacle moment in this franchise’s history. The Wolves had gone to seven consecutive postseasons without getting out of the first round. That changed in 2003-04, when Minnesota revamped its roster and entered the playoffs with the West’s best record. They beat the Nuggets 4-1 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, then headed into their series with the Kings hoping to build off that momentum.
After losing Game 1 at home 104-98, the Wolves won three of the next four to take a 3-2 series edge. The Kings won Game 6 in Sacramento, setting the stage for an epic Game 7 showdown at Target Center.
The crowd was rocking—19,944 strong—and the Wolves had the league’s MVP playing one of his best games at the most crucial moment.
“Really a surreal event in that it was almost like a dream,” Flip Saunders said this spring. “How the whole game kind of evolved. How it all played out. When I think about that game, there’s two things that come to mind. No. 1, [Sam] Cassell hitting that shot in the corner and doing his antics—which, people don’t understand, those antics led to us losing to the Lakers. Because his antics, when he did what he did, he actually created an evulsion fracture in his hip, and that’s what kept him out of the conference finals against the Lakers.
“And the other thing is, I remember after the game, when [Chris] Webber missed that shot, KG jumped on the scorer’s table and him putting his hands in the air. Those are the two things that come to mind.”
It was another game in which the Wolves’ top players performed just the way the team hoped they would. Not only did Garnett score 32 on 12-of-23 shooting and pull down 21 boards, but he had five blocks, four steals and two assists. Sam Cassell had 23 points on 6-of-12 shooting, and Latrell Sprewell had 14 points. Those three scored 69 of the team’s 83 points on the night.
The Wolves held off a Kings team that had been tireless all series trying to get under Garnett’s skin. Brad Miller famously kept his hand in front of Garnett’s face while guarding him throughout the series, and Sacramento—coached by Rick Adelman—was in the middle of an eight-season playoff stretch and was one of the West’s top teams throughout the early 2000s.
In Game 7, the Kings spread the ball around as they typically did and found open looks through their ball movement. Doug Christie led the way with 21, while Webber had 16 and Brad Miller had 11. The Kings had 23 assists on 32 field goals, including eight from Bibby, four from Webber and three from Peja Stojakovic.
As good as the Kings were—and as hard as they fought to keep the game close—the Wolves were too much on this night. Webber missed a game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer, prompting Garnett to run to the scorer’s table in celebration.
“I would contend that is the highlight of the Timberwolves’ history at this point,” said NBA.com columnist Steve Aschburner, who covered the Wolves for the Star Tribune in 2003-04. “It was a game worthy of remembering. It was a performance by Garnett that certainly is a valuable and important one.”
For some, like assistant coach Don Zierden, it was more than another win and advancing to the Western Conference Finals. He felt, to a certain degree, like a fan when the Wolves advanced.
“It’s extra special for me just in the sense that I’m born and raised in this great state,” Zierden said. “I used to go to the Timberwolves games. My mom was a season ticket holder back when they were at the Metrodome. And so that was pretty special for me to be able to walk out there and see the crowd like that and then to obviously have it end the way it ended. It was just something that I will never forget as a coach, but especially as a Minnesotan.”
Garnett was the centerpiece of it all. He was the NBA MVP, the heart and soul of the Timberwolves’ organization and their leader when it mattered most.
“I felt like I had to be the example to everybody,” Garnett said after the game.
He was. And in the process, he cemented the most celebrated night in Timberwolves’ history.