Wednesday , Apr , 28 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Minnesota hangs on for win to grab commanding series lead

Denver, CO (Sports Network) – Kevin Garnett poured in 27 points and grabbed 14
rebounds to lead Minnesota to a dramatic 84-82 win over Denver in Game 4 of
their Western Conference quarterfinal series at the Pepsi Center.

Sam Cassell added 15 points and Trenton Hassell scored 14 for the top-seeded
Timberwolves, who took a 3-1 stranglehold in the best-of-seven set.

“We are not playing our best right now, but we are beating them,” said
Garnett. “We have to continue to stay confident and stay with each other and
that is what we did.”

Minnesota, which has never won a first-round playoff series in its previous
seven tries, won a road postseason game for only the fourth time in the
franchise’s history (4-14).

“We knew that this series was not going to be an easy series,” said Minnesota
head coach Flip Saunders. “Coming into this series, I expected Denver to play
well and we knew expected a long series.”

The Timberwolves played without forward Wally Szczerbiak, who is expected to
miss at least the rest of the series with three transverse process fractures
of his lumbar spine.

Voshon Lenard netted a game-high 28 points as he drained 6-of-7 three-point
tries for the Nuggets, who have the unenviable task of being forced to win the
final three games of the series to advance to the second round.

Denver rookie Carmelo Anthony, who was bothered by a sprained left knee that
caused him to miss some time in the third quarter, struggled all night as he
scored only two points on a dismal 1-of-16 shooting.

“We will have to evaluate him tomorrow and we will see,” said Denver head
coach Jeff Bzdelik. “He needs to move a little bit better without the
basketball.”

Game 5 is scheduled for Friday night at the Target Center.

The Timberwolves began the fourth leading by three, but they scored the first
five points — all by Fred Hoiberg — to claim a 71-63 lead.

The margin hung around six to eight points over the next several minutes.
However, Andre Miller’s driving layup with 5:11 remaining cut the deficit to
75-71. Marcus Camby’s three-point play moments later trimmed the deficit to
76-74, but Minnesota then scored the next five points to make it 81-74 with
3:16 left in the game.

Lenard’s three-pointer with 2:05 remaining cut the margin to 81-77 and Garnett
then turned the ball. On the ensuing possession, Lenard buried another three,
his sixth of the game, to make it 81-80.

“Our players fought and played hard, (but) just did not play well enough,”
said Bzdelik.

Latrell Sprewell countered with a three from the right corner with 1:02
remaining to restore a four-point edge. After each team missed, Nene threw
down a mammoth dunk with 18.7 seconds left to bring his club within 84-82.

Sprewell was then fouled with 12.1 seconds to play and the veteran
uncharacteristically missed both shots. Denver grabbed the rebound and
immediately called timeout with 11.4 seconds to set up a final shot.

Miller received the inbounds pass, but missed a runner in the lane. However,
the rebound got batted around and Lenard came up with it, but his off-balance
attempt was off the mark as time expired.

“There is no quit in that team (Denver),” said Saunders.

After the game, fans began throwing debris on the floor as they voiced their
displeasure about the outcome. There was also a brief scuffle that broke out
at center court between some of the players, but it was quickly broken up.

“We won’t be back (in Denver) so we won’t have to go through that again,” said
Sprewell.”

Denver jumped out to a 9-4 lead on Camby’s jumper with around seven minutes
left in the first quarter, but the Timberwolves scored five straight points to
tie the game. The rest of the quarter remained tight and the score was tied at
20-20 after one.

The Nuggets opened up a 31-24 lead on Jon Barry’s three-pointer nearly four
minutes into the second quarter, but Minnesota battled back and pulled within
33-32 on a basket by Garnett. Hoiberg’s basket in the closing seconds tied the
score and the teams went into the intermission knotted at 36-36.

Garnett scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Timberwolves, who
made 42 percent of their shots in the first half (13-of-31). Lenard had 12
points to pace Denver, which hit on just 16-of-47 from the field in the
opening 24 minutes (34 percent).

“In order for us to win, I had to initiate,” said Garnett.

The Nuggets were tied despite the fact that the All-Rookie First-Team
selection Anthony did not score and went 0-for-9 from the field.

In the third quarter, Denver built a 43-38 lead on a pair of free throws by
Camby with 10:29 left in the period. The Timberwolves responded, though, with
a 13-2 spurt, highlighted by six from Hassell, to claim a 51-45 advantage.
Shortly after, Anthony briefly left the game with a knee injury, but the
Nuggets guard returned later in the period.

Minnesota did build its lead to 64-55 with 1:20 left in the third, but it held
just a 66-63 lead after 36 minutes.

DEN MIN