Saturday , May , 15 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Sprewell’s 34 lifts Wolves to 3-2 series lead

=== Sprewell’s 34 lifts Wolves to 3-2 series lead ===

Minneapolis, MN (Sports Network) – Latrell Sprewell poured in a game-high 34
points to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to an 86-74 win over Sacramento in
Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal series at the Target Center.

Kevin Garnett posted a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds for the
Timberwolves, who took a three-games-to-two lead in the best-of-seven series.
In addition to his point total, Sprewell grabbed seven rebounds and handed out
six assists.

Mike Bibby paced the Kings with 14 points, while dishing off six assists.
Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic chipped in 13 and 12 points, respectively, in
the losing effort.

The Kings have dropped 12 of their last 14 contests in Minnesota.

Sacramento was without All-Star forward Brad Miller in the fourth quarter. He
was ejected with 32 seconds remaining in the third after intentionally jumping
on Darrick Martin, who had fallen to the floor. Miller apparently jumped on
Martin in retaliation for a punch below the waist. Martin was also thrown out
for the illegal blow.

Game 6 is scheduled for Sunday in Sacramento at ARCO Arena.

“We viewed this game as a gotta win situation,” Garnett said. “We didn’t want
to go back to Sacramento with our backs against the wall.”

Darius Songaila, who was seeing his first action in the series, laid in a
basket to pull the Kings within six at 70-64 with 7:19 to go in the game.

However, that was the closest Sacramento would get the rest of the way as the
Timberwolves responded with an 11-2 run over the next 3 1/2 minutes to take an
81-66 advantage. Hoiberg, who contributed five points during the flurry, kick-
started it with a three-pointer from the wing. Garnett chipped in four during
the spurt and Sam Cassell capped it with a jumper.

The Kings never got within single-digits the rest of the game, as neither team
has been able to string together consecutive victories in this series.

Minnesota, who failed to make it out of the first round of the playoffs in the
last seven seasons, now stands just one win away from going to the Western
finals for the first time in franchise history.

Doug Christie scored the initial seven points for the Kings to stake them to a
7-2 lead 2 1/2 minutes into the contest. The teams traded baskets for the next
several minutes before Stojakovic’s jumper with 3:46 to gave Sacramento an
18-10 advantage.

But the Timberwolves clawed back and Mark Madsen’s layup sparked an 8-0 run to
end the quarter and tie the game at 18-18. Garnett and Sprewell added baskets
during the spurt, while Madsen capped it with a pair of free throws.

“They hit some shots early,” Garnett said. “But once we settled down, we
started to make shots and that got us back in the game. Plus, the crowd
wouldn’t let us down and they were loud tonight.”

After a Bibby jumper 10 seconds into the second quarter put the Kings back up
by two, Minnesota answered with six straight points, including consecutive
baskets by Sprewell, to take its first lead of the game at 24-20.

Cassell hit the second of two free throws with 6:17 remaining in the half to
put the Timberwolves up by six at 28-22, but Anthony Peeler scored the game’s
next two baskets to bring Sacramento back within two.

Both teams swapped baskets the rest of the stanza, as Sprewell scored five of
Minnesota’s final 10 points of the half to give it a 38-34 lead at the
intermission.

Sprewell led all scorers with 15 points in the first 24 minutes, while
Stojakovic paced the Kings with 10.

Stojakovic converted a pair of free throws five minutes into the third quarter
to cut Minnesota’s lead to 48-46. However, Sprewell netted the next eight
points to push the Timberwolves’ advantage out to 10 at 56-46.

After Trenton Hassell’s jumper made it 60-50 with 3:52 to go, Sacramento
scored seven straight points to trim Minnesota’s edge to three. But Garnett
closed out the frame with back-to-back baskets to expand the Timberwolves’
lead to 64-57.

Minnesota forward Wally Szczerbiak returned Friday night, but played just six
minutes and missed both of his field goal attempts.

Szczerbiak hasn’t played since he was injured in Game 2 of the first-round
playoff series against the Denver Nuggets when he broke three small bones in
his back. An MRI exam revealed three transverse process fractures of his
lumbar spine.

SAC MIN