An NBA blog from Newsday's Bobby Bonett
Flashback: Wolves keep title hopes alive
Day 5 of our 30-team NBA playoff flashback profiles the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves franchise has never won an NBA title, and has eight playoff appearances since the 1991-92 season.
Date: May 29, 2004
Situation: The No. 1 Minnesota Timberwolves trail the No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers, 3-1, heading to Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
Context: The Timberwolves set a franchise record for wins in the regular season, finishing 58-24 for the best record in the Western Conference. Led by Kevin Garnett (24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds) and Sam Cassell (19.8 points, 7.3 assists), Minnesota was in the playoffs for the eighth straight year, in search of their first series win. They did so easily, dispatching of the Nuggets in five games in the first round of the playoffs. After sneaking by the Kings in the semifinals in seven games — including an 83-80 win in Game 7 — Minnesota drew Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers. After splitting a pair of games in Minnesota, Los Angeles held home court, winning 100-89 and 92-85 in Games 3 and 4 to take a 3-1 series lead, putting the Wolves on the brink of elimination.
Recap: Playing without point guard Sam Cassell — he had played just four minutes in Game 4, and was out with an injury — Minnesota fell behind quick in Game 5, the Lakers jumping out to a 20-10 lead. The two teams proceeded to exchange runs, Minnesota first tying the game, then Los Angeles taking a seven-point lead, followed by the Wolves taking a six-point lead at the break. Minnesota continued to extend its lead to 16 in the fourth. Led by Derek Fisher (17 points off the bench), the Lakers closed the gap, outscoring Minnesota 33-25 in the fourth. It wasn’t enough, though, as Minnesota sent the series back to Los Angeles. Minnesota won, 98-96.
Top players: Kevin Garnett (30 points, 19 rebounds) and Latrell Sprewell (28 points) combined for 58 points in 90 minutes on 21-for-44 shooting. Derrick Martin and Fred Hoiberg, filling in for the injured Sam Cassell, combined for 16 points. Kobe Bryant (23 points), Shaquille O’Neal (17), Karl Malone (17) and Derek Fisher (17) scored in double digits for L.A.
After the game: Back at the Staples Center, the Wolves hung tight with Los Angeles, leading 78-77 heading into the fourth. However, it was again a player off the Lakers’ bench playing hero, as Kareem Rush finished with 18 points on six three-pointers, and Minnesota was eliminated in six games, 96-90. The Wolves’ playoff run ended the following year, and Minnesota hasn’t made a postseason appearance since.
Check back tomorrow for the Raptors.
You can view the whole series back clicking the "Flashback" tag below.