KG: 32 points, 21 boards

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Kevin Garnett jumped atop the scorer's table

and made a huge footprint in the chalk dust before saluting a

screaming sellout crowd.

The league's MVP left his mark all over this game, too, putting

the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference finals with

one of the greatest performances of his career.


Garnett had 32 points, 21 rebounds and five blocks on his 28th

birthday, and the Timberwolves held on to beat the Sacramento Kings

83-80 Wednesday night in Game 7 of their semifinal series.

"I felt like I had to be the example to everybody," Garnett

said.

The victory wasn't assured until Chris Webber's 3-point attempt

spun around the rim and out as the final buzzer sounded, giving

star-crossed Sacramento a Game 7 playoff loss for a third straight

year.

"I definitely thought the last shot was good," Webber said.

"It did everything but go in."

Minnesota will host the Los Angeles Lakers, who have been idle

since Saturday, in Game 1 of the conference finals Friday night.

With the Timberwolves clinging to a three-point lead, the Kings

had a final possession to tie. Doug Christie's off-balance

3-pointer was an airball, and Brad Miller's layup attempt off the

rebound was blocked by Garnett into the seats near Sacramento

co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof.

The Kings got another inbounds pass with 2.2 seconds remaining.

Webber pump-faked Garnett in the air and got a clean look as

Garnett avoided contact.

"I thought it was going down," coach Rick Adelman said. "But

it just didn't happen."

Webber, who had 16 points, collapsed to his knees in

disappointment after Sacramento failed again, just as the Kings did

against Lakers in 2002 and last year against Dallas.

"I've had some real special presents on my birthday, but

nothing like this," said Garnett, who hugged Webber before going

to celebrate.

"K.G. is probably my favorite player in the league," said

Webber, whose readjustment to his team was a struggle after he

returned from a knee injury in early March. "I love going against

him. He told me to get healthy, keep my head up."

Christie, Sacramento's sixth-leading scorer during the season,

had 21 points as his team's unlikely leader. Mike Bibby added 15

points, and Miller had 11.

"We just kept fighting, man," Miller said. "I think that's

what it's all about."

Sam Cassell played through an ailing back and returned to form

with 23 points and seven assists for Minnesota. Latrell Sprewell

added 14, and Wally Szczerbiak had 10 off the bench.


The Kings, who trailed by as many as 13 in the first half, were

down only four when Garnett delivered a big blow. As the shot clock

ran down, he hit a 3-pointer over Miller and Bibby to make it 77-70

Minnesota with 3:39 remaining.

Sacramento cut a nine-point deficit to four, 79-75, when Bibby

made a 3-pointer in the corner with 1:40 left. After Garnett threw

the ball out of bounds, the Kings missed a chance to cut it to two

when Webber missed a wide-open layup with one minute to go.

Still down by four, they blew another opportunity when Garnett

stole the ball from Miller and made one of two foul shots with 31.1

seconds left.

Bibby hit a pair of free throws, cutting it to 80-77, but

Sprewell made one of two to make it a four-point game. Christie's

3-pointer with 16.8 seconds on the clock sliced the lead to one,

and Cassell sank both of his foul shots to make it 83-80.

A day after apologizing for war-weapon metaphors he used to

describe his mindset, Garnett played his usual high-energy game at

both ends of the court on the biggest night in the franchise's 15

seasons.

"Seven games a lot of times define who you are, and a lot of

times the bigger the game the bigger the guy who steps up," Wolves

coach Flip Saunders said.

After seven straight first-round losses, Garnett is finally

having a positive postseason experience -- but he couldn't have done

it without his teammates.

Cassell, who had 40 points in Game 1 but just 62 over the last

five, had 11 points in the first quarter and went 10-for-11 from

the line despite grimacing every time he ran up and down the court.

Szczerbiak used a six-inch advantage on Bibby to score all 10 of

his points in the second quarter. He turned three offensive

rebounds into baskets.

Minnesota was especially sharp on defense. Sacramento's offense

never found its rhythm. Webber went 8-for-17 for 16 points, Peja

Stojakovic shot 3-for-12 and Bibby was just 4-for-13. The Kings

missed nine of their 17 free throw attempts, too.

Sacramento took its first lead, 58-57, on Webber's jumper with

1:55 left in the third quarter. It didn't last long: Cassell's

3-pointer with 33.9 seconds remaining put Minnesota back in front,

62-60.Game notes
Garnett ensured a spot on the highlights during a defensive

sequence early in the second quarter. Christie missed a layup,

Stojakovic grabbed it and put up a withering shot of his own.

Garnett jumped high to block it, grabbed it with one hand, cradled

it under his wrist and landed on the floor in one smooth motion.

... The last Game 7 victory in Kings franchise history was 1981,

when Kansas City beat Phoenix in the conference semifinals.