Wolves need a scoring Spree against Kings in Game 2

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Latrell Sprewell usually scores in streaks, so his five-point performance in the series opener didn’t alarm the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Sprewell wasn’t concerned, either, but he’ll have to do more if his team is going to stick with Sacramento.

“I’ve had games like that before,” Sprewell said Thursday. “After 12 years, you’re bound to have nights like that.”

Going 2-for-14 from the field?

Missing all six shots after halftime?

Yes, it’s happened several times.

Sprewell, who averaged 16.8 points during the regular season, had 16 games in which he shot worse than 30 percent and scored in single digits.

He opened the first round against Denver with an 11-point, 2-for-11 effort before averaging 22 points over the final four games of that series.

That’s why his line in the boxscore from Tuesday’s 104-98 loss in Game 1 to the Kings wasn’t raising any eyebrows.

“Sometimes guys don’t play well,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. “They don’t shoot well. He did other things. You do little things, and they can add up to big results. He did some things defensively, getting some steals and getting an open-floor layup. I’m not worried about him. He’ll play much better on Saturday.”

That would be Game 2.

“Pretty much a must-win situation,” Saunders said.

Sprewell, in his first season with the Timberwolves after arriving from New York in a four-team trade last summer, remains a valuable, athletic defender at age 33. Teammates feed off his intensity, and he’s still quick enough to slash to the basket. When his jump shot is off, however, he’s often destined for a quiet night.

The best remedy for that, he said, is to avoid becoming hesitant.

“Keep shooting,” Sprewell said. “Go out and play. Not worry about it. Just try to focus on what you have to do to help your team win. Just because you’re not shooting well doesn’t mean you can’t do other things, be effective in other ways on the court.”

Sprewell spent about 20 minutes shooting jumpers well after Thursday’s practice was over, perhaps a sign that he took his paltry output seriously even if he wouldn’t acknowledge concern.

Sprewell’s slump stood out more because Minnesota is missing its top two outside shooters. Troy Hudson is done for the year with an ankle injury, and broken bones in Wally Szczerbiak’s back have sidelined him for the past 12 days.

League MVP Kevin Garnett was off his game, too, going just 1-for-8 in the second half and finishing with 16 points.

“We need to do some things harder, and we need to do some things better,” Sprewell said. “We don’t feel like we played well, and we were right there with two minutes to go and a shot at winning the game.”

Though the game-high 40 points that Sam Cassell scored in Game 1 were wasted in defeat, Minnesota’s point guard wasn’t fretting, either.

“If he wasn’t feeling it, he wasn’t feeling it,” Cassell said. “He’ll be fine. Kevin and Spree are two guys I don’t worry about on the basketball court.”

Cassell will need someone else to shoulder the load, and Sacramento knows that.

“On defense we had problems with Sam, but he’s only one guy,” center Vlade Divac said.

The Kings’ biggest focus will be keeping Garnett from breaking out. He had six turnovers and seemed tentative at times.

“Just be glad he was like that, because the next game he can be the least tentative person there is,” Sacramento’s Brad Miller said.

Divac, Miller and Chris Webber were the ones responsible for defending Garnett.

“We tried to do a good job on him,” Webber said. “We played well. And we’ve got to be ready next game, because I know him, and … he’s not going tohave a game like that again. Him or Spree.”

Notes

Szczerbiak moved around nimbly while shooting jumpers after Thursday’spractice, but he likely won’t be ready for at least another week.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Sacramento
M. Bibby M. Bibby
10-21,  33 Pts
7 Rebs, 7 Assists
 Minnesota
K. Garnett K. Garnett
6-21,  16 Pts
18 Rebs, 7 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists