Thursday , Apr , 22 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Scoring Spree: Minnesota takes 2-0 series lead

=== Scoring Spree: Minnesota takes 2-0 series lead ===

Minneapolis, MN (Sports Network) – Latrell Sprewell scored a game-high 31
points to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 95-81 thumping of the Denver
Nuggets in Game 2 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series at the
Target Center.

Kevin Garnett recorded his third career playoff triple-double, scoring 20
points, grabbing 22 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists, for the Timberwolves,
who have a 2-0 lead the best-of-seven series.

Sprewell made 11-of-17 shots from the floor, hitting a franchise-record seven
three-pointers, as the Timberwolves have a 2-0 lead in a playoff series for
the first time in franchise history. The first-year Timberwolves forward had
only 11 points on just 2-of-11 shooting in Game 1.

“He gave us great energy and we needed that,” Minnesota head coach Flip
Saunders said of Sprewell. “He had a very solid game for us.”

Carmelo Anthony had 15 points and nine rebounds and Voshon Lenard chipped in
with a team-high 24 points for Denver, which will host Game 3 on Saturday.

“We were embarrassed twice,” said Anthony. “Now we have a chance to go on our
home floor and redeem ourselves. We have to defend our home court.”

Leading by 12 points, the Timberwolves put the game well out of reach in the
fourth. An 11-3 run to start the quarter gave Minnesota a 20-point cushion.
Wally Szczerbiak had seven points during the run, capping it with a three-
point play with 2:45 elapsed.

Minnesota cruised from there with Denver getting within 15 points, 90-75, with
2:20 left on an Earl Boykins jumper. Consecutive baskets to end the game drew
the Nuggets as close as they would get since the start of the quarter.

Sam Cassell, who had 40 points in Game 1, finished with 12 points and nine
assists in the victory.

“They’re a team that goes beyond a superstar in Kevin Garnett and great talent
in Sam Cassell,” said Denver head coach Jeff Bzdelik. “We saw that in Latrell
Sprewell tonight. We did our best to limit Cassell and make Kevin earn his
points, but Sprewell stuck the dagger in us.”

Garnett has established himself as a force in this series, averaging 25
points, 21 rebounds and seven assists. He finished Game 2 shooting 9-for-27
from the field, as Minnesota went 37-of-79 overall for 47 percent.

“I didn’t shoot the ball as well as I can,” Garnett said. “What you saw
tonight was a product of the shot not falling, but staying with it. I felt
like I wasn’t as patient as I should be, at times I got out of hand. But I
felt like I did make my team better.”

“That’s why he’s the MVP,” Saunders said. “He has an average game by his
standards and it’s above everybody else’s great game.”

Denver struggled from the floor. Despite shooting 40 percent, the Nuggets
scored only nine points in the second quarter and 17 in the third, as the
Timberwolves took advantage.

After Minnesota held a 28-27 lead after one quarter, a Boykins’ basket just 30
seconds into the second gave Denver a one-point edge, 29-28. However,
Minnesota ran off nine straight points, capped by a Fred Hoiberg three-pointer
with 8:34 remaining, for a 37-29 lead.

Then, after Anthony drew the Nuggets within 39-35 with 3:28 left, the
Timberwolves ended the half by scoring 11 of the final 12 points. Cassell and
Trenton Hassell combined to score eight of the points for Minnesota, which
held a 50-36 lead heading into the break.

Overall the Timberwolves outscored the Nuggets 22-9 in the second, with Denver
connecting on just one field goal in the final 5:47 of the half.

“Offensively we didn’t share the ball like we are capable of doing,” Bzdelik
said. “Sometimes what happens to a young team when you’re fighting and
struggling on the road, you break away from your offense and we did that.

“We had only one assist in the second quarter when we lost control of the

In the third, the Timberwolves kept the Nuggets at bay despite not hitting a
field goal for the first five-plus minutes of the half. A Sprewell jumper
ended the drought with 6:41 left. He later converted a three-point play with
3:26 remaining, and after two Anthony free throws, Sprewell connected on a
trey with 2:57 on the clock to give the Timberwolves a 15-point lead, 61-46.

Szczerbiak finished with 11 points, committing five fouls in just 19 minutes
of action.

Boykins had 12 points off the bench for the Nuggets.