Timberwolves rip Nuggets 95-81, take 2-0 Lead
Latrell Sprewell took care of the shooting, and Kevin Garnett did the dirty work.
Sprewell scored 31 points, Garnett had his third career playoff triple-double and the Timberwolves beat the Denver Nuggets 95-81 Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round Western Conference playoff series.
The series shifts to Denver for the next two games, with Game 3 set for Saturday night.
Garnett didn't have any great highlights, shooting just 9-for-27. But he finished with 20 points, 22 rebounds and 10 assists, and now has 42 rebounds in two games.
Voshon Lenard led the Nuggets with 24 points, but only nine came in the final three quarters. Rookie of the Year runner-up Carmelo Anthony continued his quiet postseason with 15 points, nine rebounds and 5-for-11 shooting.
The Timberwolves are halfway to winning their first playoff series, and Garnett, their perennial All-Star and MVP candidate, hasn't led them in scoring in either game.
He's been valuable, though, providing plenty of support for both of his new teammates in Sam Cassell, who had 40 points in Game 1, and Sprewell, who went 7-for-8 from 3-point range in Wednesday's win.
That's exactly why the Wolves traded for them last summer, and the three haven't disappointed.
Sprewell, held to 11 points in Game 1, had 14 at the end of the first quarter after an impressive 12-minute duel with Lenard. They exchanged some trash talk, played soft defense on each other and led their teams to a 1980s-style score at the end of the quarter ¡ª 28-27 in favor of the Wolves.
Lenard, wearing a baby blue headband crookedly above his ears, made some incredible outside shots. He was a standout for the University of Minnesota in the early 1990s, and fans have cheered his introduction before the games.
The Nuggets started turning the ball over, though, and scored just nine points in the second. Sprewell hit a long jumper to put the Wolves ahead 46-35 with 1:22 left, and the lead never got below double digits after that.
Sprewell was shooting so well that he shook his head in disbelief when coach Flip Saunders took him out with 1:11 remaining in the first half with just two fouls.
"I'm on fire," Sprewell pleaded.
Garnett wasn't happy, either, shouting toward the bench, "Where's HE going?"
The damage was already done to Denver, however. The Wolves scored four more points before the buzzer to build their biggest lead of the half, 50-36.
The Nuggets, beaten badly on the pick-and-roll in Game 1, tightened up their defense on Cassell and forced him into some ill-advised shots. Denver shored up the middle, too, with Nene and Marcus Camby hounding Garnett all night and evening out the huge rebounding edge that Minnesota owned Sunday.
But Anthony, who averaged 21 points during the regular season, once again failed to make an impact. The 19-year-old is now 11-for-28 from the floor in his first two playoff games.
Point guards Andre Miller and Earl Boykins had 12 points apiece for Denver, which shot 11-for-36 over the second and third quarters.