PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference semifinals; tied, 2-2.
Minnesota coach Flip Saunders decided to give his team a day off following the most disappointing performance of what has been a historic playoff run for the Timberwolves.
He’s hoping his team responds to his generosity when the Timberwolves return home to resume their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series with the Sacramento Kings.
The Timberwolves, who have already surpassed every previous team in franchise history just by reaching the second round, had a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead Wednesday night at Arco Arena. But Minnesota stumbled badly in its quest to reach the conference finals, committing 24 turnovers en route to an 87-81 loss.
“We just made bad decisions,” Saunders said. “We were doing things I hadn’t seen in a long time.”
While the home team has won each game in the other three semifinal series, Minnesota and Sacramento have taken turns breaking home-court advantage. The Kings stole Game 1 at the Target Center and the Timberwolves returned the favor at Arco in Game 3.
Now just a best-of-three series, the Timberwolves can ill-afford another letdown on their home floor, or another sloppy performance.
”(The loss) had to do with us not taking care of the basketball,” said Minnesota’s Latrell Sprewell, the only Timberwolves player in the interview room after Game 4. “We knew they were going to put up a serious fight. They didn’t want to go back to Minnesota down 3-1.”
Chris Webber provided the heroics for the Kings on Wednesday, scoring a career playoff-high 28 points and grabbing a team-best eight rebounds in 37 minutes. Webber shot 13-of-21 from the floor, picked up three steals and blocked a shot to help Sacramento stay out of a 3-1 hole.
“I made up my mind tonight I was going to play my game, do what they brought me here to do,” Webber said. “At least I was going to try to do it.”
Last season, Webber was sidelined by a knee injury during the Kings’ semifinal series with Dallas, and watched from the bench as Sacramento went down in seven games.
The Kings appear perfectly willing to grind it out against the Timberwolves, using their big-game experience and physical style to their advantage.
“It doesn’t have to be pretty,” said Kings guard Anthony Peeler, who played the previous six postseasons with the Timberwolves. “It’s always going to be rough and tough. We just had to make sure that we sustained the tough and aggressive play the whole time.”
Kings center Brad Miller admitted to becoming a bit annoyed by the Timberwolves.
“They don’t have guys playing physical,” Miller said. “Sometimes they’re just grabbing, and that’s frustrating. And the refs can’t see it because everything is happening so fast. But you have to fight through it.”
Minnesota was in a similar predicament in a first-round series with the Los Angeles Lakers last season. After splitting the first four games, the Timberwolves returned home and suffered a 30-point defeat before being eliminated in Game 6 at Staples Center.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Kings - Bibby, 25.2 ppg; Webber, 9.0 rpg; Christie, 5.2 apg. Timberwolves - Garnett, 24.2 ppg, 15.3 rpg and 7.0 apg.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Timberwolves, 3-1. Garnett was dominant against the Kings, averaging 26.8 points and 19.3 rebounds. In the first matchup at Sacramento on Dec. 8, Garnett made two 3-pointers in the final 26 seconds of regulation to force overtime in a 112-109 win. Webber had 21 points and 11 rebounds on April 8 in his only game against Minnesota, but Garnett had 24 and 17 while Cassell scored 29 points as the Timberwolves won 94-86 at Sacramento. Cassell and Sprewell accounted for 46.3 points and 12.0 assists per game. Miller averaged 20 points and eight boards in three games.