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Minnesota Fades Out Again

For the seventh season in a row, Timberwolves are unable to get out of the first round.

May 02, 2003|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

With dignity, the Minnesota Timberwolf starters watched the final minutes of Thursday's Game 6 defeat to the Lakers, from the bench. They didn't cry, nor did they shake their heads in disappointment.

But the bottom line is the Timberwolves were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round ... again.

For the seventh consecutive season, Minnesota's season ended early but this time it came at the hands of the three-time defending NBA champions.

"They took the wind right out of our sails and we had problems scoring," said Minnesota Coach Flip Saunders after the Timberwolves dropped a 101-85 decision to the Lakers and a 4-2 series loss.

"I've said from the start that the Lakers are the team to beat and they proved that with us."

And what the Timberwolves found out is that a two-man team does not get the job done in the playoffs. Kevin Garnett and Troy Hudson earned their pay with great efforts throughout the series but in the end, they were far from enough against the steadily improving Lakers.

"We were very competitive early, then we had two bad sequences in the second half," Saunders said. "There are a lot of things that you can point to. Maybe Troy did get a little worn down, but there's nothing to be ashamed about.

"Sometimes you can learn as much from when you don't have success than when you do. Hopefully, that's the case with us."

Minnesota, which blew its home-court advantage twice in the series, started well on Thursday but again fell victim to lackluster games from Wally Szczerbiak, Rasho Nesterovic and Anthony Peeler, who combined for 24 points and nine-for-23 shooting.

After taking a 30-25 lead into the second quarter, the Timberwolves hit a wall heading into halftime. The Lakers outscored Minnesota, 22-13, in the period and limited the Timberwolves to 33.3% shooting.

It was all uphill from there.

"[Kevin Garnett] had a great series, along with Hudson," Laker Coach Phil Jackson said. "They both played terrific basketball. They won more playoff games than they did before, so I think they grew from this. Hopefully, this will be something that helps them in the future."

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