Utah (15-28) at Minnesota (23-19)

Fair Currently: Minneapolis, MN
Temp: 53° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Fri Jan 28, 2005
Preview | Box Score | Recap

With Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell healthy, the Minnesota Timberwolves hope Flip Saunders will soon follow.

The Timberwolves, with two of their key players progressing, are now expected to welcome back their coach when they host the Utah Jazz.

Sprewell scored a season-high 32 points, including 22 in the third quarter, to lead Minnesota to a 104-87 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.

Sprewell had a total of nine points and one rebound in the previous three games while battling the flu.

Cassell returned Wednesday after missing 10 games due to a strained right hamstring.

Injured in a victory over Philadelphia on Jan. 7, Cassell entered the game to a standing ovation with 8:47 left in the second quarter. He quickly hit a 12-footer before forcing a turnover on the Hawks’ ensuing possession. Cassell had four points and eight assists.

“It was a good game for Sam,” said Timberwolves assistant coach Randy Wittman, who took over for a flu-ridden Saunders. “Number one is, he didn’t feel a twinge.”

Saunders, in his 10th season with the Wolves, had never missed a game due to illness while posting a 408-319 record.

Kevin Garnett had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have won four straight. Wally Szczerbiak added 18 points and Fred Hoiberg scored 12.

Utah, which has been searching for a point guard all season, may have found one it can stick with in Raul Lopez.

The job that has bounced between three players all season has come back to Lopez, who had a career-high 11 assists and matched his best scoring total with 20 points in Wednesday’s 109-100 win over the Seattle SuperSonics.

“We don’t have to think about who scored more points. We won the game and that’s what matters,” said Lopez, who was making his sixth start of the season. “We have a lot of games where people scored a lot of points and we lost.”

Lopez and Howard Eisley are Utah’s only two active point guards, less than a week after having four on the roster. Carlos Arroyo, the starter last season, was traded to the Detroit Pistons last week and Keith McLeod was placed on the injured list Wednesday because of a strained hamstring.

Andrei Kirilenko scored 12 points and had five blocks in his third game back after missing 26 with a knee injury. Kirilenko appeared healthy, especially at the end when he swatted away a shot by Danny Fortson to help keep Utah’s 17-6 run alive early in the fourth quarter.

“He’s freaky sometimes with some of the stuff he can do,” Jazz guard Raja Bell said. “We’re excited to have him back.”

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