Cassell, Garnett lead Minnesota charge

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves found no

security in their lofty new position at the top of the Western

Conference standings.

Not yet anyway.

Sam Cassell scored 29 points and Kevin Garnett added 24 points

and 17 rebounds as the Timberwolves moved past Sacramento into

first place in the West with an impressive performance at one of

the league's toughest arenas, defeating the Kings 94-86 Thursday


"It was a very important game, the most important game of the

year," forward Latrell Sprewell said. "We can't have a letdown.

We have three games remaining and we have to win them."

Minnesota rallied from an 11-point third-quarter deficit against

the sloppy Kings, who were held to 17 fourth-quarter points. The

Timberwolves moved a half-game ahead of the Kings and 1{ ahead of

the idle Los Angeles Lakers.

Minnesota has put itself in position to keep the top seed for

the playoffs. The Wolves won the season series from Sacramento 3-1,

giving them the tiebreaker edge.

They also has a more favorable schedule the rest of the way,

while the Kings host the Lakers in their final regular-season game

at Arco Arena on Sunday before finishing on the road at Denver and

Golden State.

"All this did tonight is put us in position to take care of

ourselves," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "To sweep them in

their own place is a very difficult thing to do."

Cassell scored with 1:59 left to make it 83-79 and also had two

crucial rebounds in crunch time, including one on a missed layup by

Mike Bibby with about 1:30 to play.

Yet Cassell felt he let his teammates down with his inconsistent

shooting -- he went 13-for-29 from the field.

"Guys came to me and said, 'You still need to take those same

shots. Those are the shots that make us go," Cassell said. "I

was getting down on myself. Those are shots I was supposed to


Chris Webber had 21 points and 11 rebounds and Bibby added 19

points, seven assists and three steals as Sacramento started a

stretch of four games in five nights.

This was a conference showdown so physical it resembled a

playoff game more than a late-season matchup. Four of the teams'

previous five meetings were decided in overtime, and this one had

plenty of drama, too.

After Cassell hit a jumper from the right side with 4:48 left in

the third to pull the Wolves within 57-52, Bibby took over. He

threw a pretty alley-oop for a dunk by Doug Christie, then made a

driving lay-in. He found Webber for a reverse dunk and followed

that play by sinking a 15-foot jumper.

Yet the Kings couldn't hold the lead.

Garnett scored the first four points of the fourth, and Wally

Szczerbiak's 3-pointer with 10 minutes remaining made it 69-68.

Vlade Divac, in jeopardy of going two straight games without

scoring, converted a three-point play with 3:16 to go to keep the

Kings within 80-78, but then was called for a questionable foul on

the other end against Garnett. The Timberwolves took care of the

ball the rest of the way.

Brad Miller was whistled for a flagrant foul -- his sixth

personal -- with 4:18 left for a hit from behind on Michael

Olowokandi only moments after picking up his fifth.

"We still control our future in the Pacific (Division),"

Miller said. "We've got to make sure we take care of business

there -- just go out and win the rest of our games."

Bobby Jackson, the Kings' backup point guard, scored 10 points

in 13 minutes in his first game back after missing 24 games with a

strained abdominal muscle.

Jackson checked into the game with 2:22 left in the first

quarter. He received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd and

cheers of "Bobby! Bobby!" He immediately rebounded a missed shot

by Christie and scored the putback with an acrobatic move on the


Minnesota, which had held its last five opponents to 81.6 points

and 40 percent shooting, has gone 15 straight games without scoring

100 points, but it hasn't mattered much.

Garnett grabbed 25 rebounds against Sacramento on Dec. 5, the

most boards the Kings have given up to one player all season.

Sacramento went hard to the glass this time, but still was

outrebounded 48-40.

"It concerns me we lost, but it happens when you don't rebound

the ball," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "We got impatient


Game notes
Kings F Peja Stojakovic failed to make a 3-pointer for the

first time in 37 games. ... Christie finished with 12 points, his

seventh straight game in double figures. ... The teams combined for

only eight turnovers in the first half. ... Sacramento is 10-3 at

home since the All-Star break. ... Before the game, Kings players

wore white T-shirts with pink writing spelling "SARAH 24" in

memory of Jackson's mother who died last season of breast cancer.

Jackson spoke during halftime about the importance of breast cancer