Work in Sports
MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- This time, the Minnesota Timberwolves were the home team.
Kevin Garnett had another triple-double and the Timberwolves staved off elimination with a 94-87 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game Three of their Western Conference series.
After losing a pair of tough games in Portland, Minnesota came home to a raucous crowd at the Target Center which reversed the comfort levels of both teams.
"We were in both games in Portland," Garnett said. "Today means a lot for our confidence. When you work hard and don't accomplish what you're supposed to do, it takes some of the air out of you."
In Games One and Two, the Trail Blazers appeared to benefit from being at home, making most of the clutch plays and getting a favorable whistle down the stretch. Today, the Timberwolves made the plays and got the calls.
"It's a lot better playing at home than on the road from the crowd standpoint," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "I thought our crowd was outstanding. It was one of the best local crowds we have had in a long time. ... We have had three very good games against Portland. They've been very competitive games."
"The game was called evenly," Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said. "All you can ask for as a player is a consistent call and that's what we got today."
Garnett had 23 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, improving upon his sloppy triple-double in Game One, when he made just 6-of-20 shots.
"You expect that of him," Portland forward Brian Grant said. "He had a triple-double in one of the first two games and we still won. Tonight I think, moreso than his points, it was the energy he brought for his other teammates. That was a key, because he really kept the crowd in it. That's what you have to do when you're the superstar on your team."
Garnett made a clutch jumper with 2:04 to go and got some help from Anthony Peeler, who scored 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Blazers forward Scottie Pippen, who averaged 24.5 points in the first two games, was limited to 16 -- none in the fourth quarter.
Terrell Brandon had a huge game with a playoff career-high 28 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and the game-clinching basket for the Wolves, who ended a four-game playoff losing streak and host Game Four on Tuesday.
"Today was two playoff teams playing the game the way it's supposed to be played," Brandon said. "It makes the game fun.
It's do or die for us. We played down the stretch the way we have most of the year, with poise, flair and confidence."
"We're 2-1 in a hole," said Garnett, who never has won a playoff series. "We must take these games as being precious. You say, 'Can we do it again?' We have to. If we want to pass the marks we set, we have to win."
Each team has scored 257 points in the series. Including the regular season, all seven meetings have been decided by seven points or less, with no team eclipsing 100 points.
"We're looking forward to Game Four," Pippen said. "We're excited that we stayed this close to this team, as poorly as we played."
Garnett, who made 11-of-22 shots, opened the fourth quarter with a drive to snap a 68-68 tie and Minnesota led the rest of the way. Peeler followed with a 3-pointer to cap a 9-0 burst that began in the third quarter and hit another to extend the margin to 78-72 with 7:17 remaining.
The Blazers hung around behind Grant, who had Portland's first nine points of the period. His free throw cut the deficit to 80-77 with 5:19 left, but Minnesota's Joe Smith sank a pair and Peeler went in for a reverse layup and an 84-77 bulge with 4:15 to go.
Portland's Arvydas Sabonis hit a 3-pointer but Garnett answered with his jumper for an 86-80 lead. Sabonis had a layup and Garnett missed a jumper, but Sabonis missed a layup and Brandon drove right, avoided a swipe at the ball and threw in a short shot for an 88-82 lead with 42 seconds left. It remained at least a two-possession game thereafter.
"Terrell is such a great shooter, he puts a lot of pressure on a team defensively because you always have to be on the alert," Saunders said. "When you have 27 assists and only six turnovers and you shoot 54 percent, that shows that your point guard is doing an excellent job of getting the ball to the right people and getting your offense running."
Malik Sealy scored nine points and a foul-plagued Smith added eight for the Wolves, who shot 53.5 percent (38-of-71), including 6-of-10 from 3-point range. Minnesota held a 33-28 rebounding edge.
Steve Smith scored 22 points and Sabonis added 17 for the Blazers, who shot 42 percent (32-of-76) and made 17-of-18 free throws. Rasheed Wallace scored 15 points and Grant added 11 and seven rebounds.
Portland committed just six turnovers while forcing seven as the teams combined to match the lowest total in NBA playoff history.
Detroit and Boston combined for 13 on May 9, 1991.
Brandon thoroughly outplayed counterpart and fellow Portland native Damon Stoudamire. He scored 12 points in the first quarter as Minnesota grabbed a 24-20 lead.
"To sum it all up, I stunk up the gym," said Stoudamire, who was 0-of-8 and fouled out. "They could've kicked me out for stinking it up. They should have done that. I'll tell you what, though, I'm not going to stink it it up again."
Garnett scored nine points in the second period, including a 3-pointer with 6.8 seconds to go that extended the advantage to 47-40.
Pippen came alive in the third quarter, making 4-of-5 shots and scoring 10 points. Grant's two free throws gave Portland a 68-64 lead in the final minute before jumpers by Sam Mitchell and Garnett closed the quarter.