It seems the Timberwovles are finally ready to take the next step.
Kevin Garnett had 27 points, 14 rebounds and five assists Tuesday night, helping the Timberwolves hold off the Denver Nuggets 84-82 to move within a game of reaching the second round of the playoffs for the first time in eight tries.
“Sometimes you’ve got to let a sleeping dog sleep and they’ve been doing a real good job of throwing gasoline on the fire,” Garnett said. “We heard the comments, we just sat back, waited for the game and just played. Now we’re in position to close this thing out.”
Garnett had plenty to do with it.
Frustrated by Denver’s physical approach in Game 3, Garnett kept his cool when things got rough this time. He did get into a shoving match with Marcus Camby in a scramble for a loose ball in the first quarter, but stayed calm and fought through leg cramps to finish 8-for-17 and 11-for-15 on free throws.
“He got us to where we needed to get,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said.
It almost wasn’t enough.
Minnesota led by eight midway through the fourth quarter, but Camby cut it to 76-74 on a 3-point play with 4:43 left that got the crowd on its feet.
The Timberwolves pushed it back to a six-point lead, but Voshon Lenard hit a 3-pointer and had a steal that led to another 3 that made it 81-80 with 1:14 left.
Latrell Sprewell answered with a 3-pointer in the corner, then Nene scored on a dunk to make it 84-82 with 18 seconds left. Sprewell missed two free throws at the other end, but Andre Miller’s shot in the lane was too hard and Lenard was nowhere close on a turnaround at the buzzer.
“It’s been fun. The first two games were kind of boring, then the verbal stuff started in the papers, and it was intense out there,” Denver’s Jon Barry said. “It’s what the players are all about. We played really hard, we just didn’t play particularly well.”
The Timberwolves can clinch a playoff series for the first time in team history Friday in Minnesota.
“We’re not coming back here,” Sprewell said.
Lenard had 28 points and Miller 13 for Denver, but star rookie Carmelo Anthony had just two points on 1-for-16 shooting against Hassell and spent the final minutes of the fourth quarter waving a towel from the bench.
“To be honest, Carmelo needs to move a little better without the ball,” Bzdelik said.
Anthony struggled from the start, missing all nine shots in the first half and had a runner from halfcourt waved off because it came after the buzzer.
It didn’t get much better to start the second half. Anthony shot an airball on an open 3-pointer and missed three more shots before scoring on a breakaway at 6:31 after stealing the ball from Hassell.
It got worse a few minutes later, when Anthony had to come out after stepping on Camby’s foot and twisting his left knee. He returned four minutes later with a wrap on his knee, but missed his next four shots and sat out the final 7:06 after his knee stiffened.
“It felt funny watching, but I was going to cheer for my teammates,”Anthony said.
A moment of silence was held before tipoff to honor former Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman, who was killed in action in Afghanistan last week. … The start was delayed 20 minutes because the previous game on television, New Orleans-Miami, ran late. … The Nuggets were loose before the game. Much of the conversation centered on backup forward Chris Andersen’s hair, which looked like he had put up in curlers. “I can’t stop talking aboutit,” reserve guard Jeff Trepanier said with a laugh.