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Saunders Sticks Up for Garnett

NBA PLAYOFFS / LAKERS VS. MINNESOTA / SERIES REPORT
| TIMBERWOLF NOTES

May 27, 2004|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Since Kevin Garnett didn't complain about the officiating in Game 3, Minnesota Coach Flip Saunders did it for him after the Timberwolves' practice Wednesday at Loyola Marymount.

"I was very disappointed because I thought there was some cheap fouls called on him and there's no question that for a guy of his caliber, he should go to the line more than four times," said Saunders about Garnett, who fouled out late in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's 11-point loss to the Lakers. Garnett made three of four free throws and scored 22 points.

After Garnett was called for two fouls in the first two games of the series, Laker Coach Phil Jackson made a point to question how that could happen with the Minnesota captain playing nearly every minute.

"It's against [Garnett's] nature to complain on every foul," Saunders said. "But did you watch last night with Gary Payton and Karl Malone? The reason they do it is because it works. If you keep on complaining, you end up getting some calls. Kevin has always been a guy not to get into that. But I tell him, sometimes you can have too much respect for officials and at some point you have to stick up for yourself."

Garnett said that he was not about to change his approach in the middle of the Western Conference finals.

"I don't [gripe] and moan about a guy hitting me," said Garnett, averaging 21 points and almost 11 rebounds and four assists in the series. "That's part of the game. That's contact.

"I need to be more aggressive going to the basket. If they call it, they call it. If they don't, they don't. I can't be sitting there trying to have a conversation with the referee while Karl Malone is sprinting down the court."

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Point guard Sam Cassell, who has been limited because of back and hip injuries, practiced but said that it would be a game-time decision on whether he would be able to play tonight.

"There's no need to cry about it, but I'm not 100%," said Cassell, who sat out nearly all of the fourth quarter of Games 1 and 3, and played only 43 seconds in Game 2. "I'm not able to do the things I know that I'm capable of doing against this ballclub. But, this is the hand I was dealt and I have to play it."

Cassell scored 16 points in Game 1 and 18 in Game 3. His lack of strength on the defensive end has been a problem.

"I can stay in front, but I can't offer any type of resistance," Cassell said about defending Payton and Derek Fisher. "I have to find a way. I'm trying to get my legs and back stronger" for tonight's game.

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Saunders on Jackson's ability to work the officials in the playoffs: "Phil came in after [Game 3] and said that they got the calls they deserved. Well, I charted our game and we had 33 calls that we didn't get that we deserved. At some point, things do have to change."

The Lakers attempted 43 free throws in Game 3 to the Timberwolves' 14.

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