In the Spotlight

News & Features
The Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves
DocumentGame 5: Wolves win 98-96, stay alive in series
DocumentGame 4: Wolves lose; backs are against the wall
DocumentGame 3: Lakers win 100-89
DocumentGame 2: Timberwolves win 89-71
DocumentGame 1: Lakers sink Wolves 97-88
Preview of series with Britt Robson of City Pages (Morning Edition, 5/21/04)
Former Minneapolis Laker George Mikan talks with KPCC's John Rabe
DocumentTimberwolves advance to Western Conference finals
Your Voice
DocumentJoin the conversation with other MPR listeners in the News Forum.

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
Lakers sink Timberwolves in series opener
Larger view
Karl Malone of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves battle for position in the second half of Game one of the Western Conference Finals during the 2004 NBA Playoffs Friday night at the Target Center in Minneapolis. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
The Minnesota Timberwolves lost to the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night at the Target Center 97-88. The team also lost the momentum it had after its series ending win against Sacramento. And they lost home court advantage. But Wolves players say the team has been in this situation before and they say can come back.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Things didn't go well for the Timberwolves. They stayed close to the Lakers for most of the game. But it seemed whenever the Wolves were on the verge of pulling ahead, the Lakers would hit a clutch shot or a foul call would go their way. The Timberwolves didn't help themselves by turning the ball over 15 times. The Lakers had 8 turnovers. The Timberwolves three main scorers -- Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell -- were out-scored and out-played by Lakers stars Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone. Lakers head coach Phil Jackson says it looked like the Wolves were tired.

"We caught this team on a night when they really didn't have a lot of energy," he said. "We know they have better games than they showed tonight, because they're still tired from the last series."

Jackson says he expects the Timberwolves to play better in Game two on Sunday. But he's not ready to concede any victories.

Larger view
Image Malone over Spree

"It was a good win for us and it's key for us to get that home court tilted in our direction. Now we have the ability to finish this with wins on our home court," Jackson said.

In the NBA playoffs, the team with the best record in the conference at the end of the season, gets to start and finish each playoff series on their home court. The Timberwolves will have to win Sunday and win at least one game in Los Angeles to get that advantage back.

Timberwolves players, like guard Latrell Sprewell, say they're not too rattled by losing home court advantage. He says the team was in the same situation after game one of the last round of the playoffs.

"So we feel confident that we can bounce back. But that's easier said than done. As you advance, it's tougher. This is a very good Laker team. I think everyone knows that. So we're really going to have to get our game plan down as to what we're going to do on Sunday and we're going to have to play better," Sprewell said.

The Lakers are a better team than the Timberwolves last opponent. In the last five years, the Lakers have won three championships. On defense, the Lakers swarmed Kevin Garnett whenever he got the ball. Garnett ended the game with only 16 points, well below his playoff average.

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant scored 23 points against the Wolves. He says the key to defending Garnett is to make him feel claustrophobic.

"Every dribble he takes, we want him to feel like he's crowded. He has hands in his face whenever he shoots the ball. He's uncomfortable putting the ball down on his spots. But we definitely want to try to make Kevin play in a closet as much as possible," he said.

On top of Garnett's shooting woes, the Wolves go-to-guy in the fourth quarter, Sam Cassell, was sidelined with recurring back spasms. He managed 16 points, but sat out for most of the final period of the game.

Garnett didn't appear to have the same kind of energy on the court as he had in past games. When asked if he or his teammates were too worn out to play a good game, Garnett said he doesn't have time for fatigue.

"This is the Western Conference finals, either you suck it up or you go home. This is what you play, what you work hard for in the offseason. Its what you play for. Fatigue is not a word I'm going to use. Ever," Garnett said.

There was at least one bright spot in the Wolves' losing effort. Center Michael Olowakandi broke out of a slump and scored 10 points. He averaged two points a game during the regular season.

Respond to this story
News Headlines
Related Subjects