"That's what Spree and I are supposed to do, take the pressure
off Kevin on both ends of the floor," Cassell said.
Michael Redd and Desmond Mason each had 16 points for Milwaukee,
playing its first game under rookie coach Terry Porter -- hired to
replace George Karl.
The young Bucks trailed by 17 points late in the first half, but
they climbed back in the third quarter to trim the lead to five.
Toni Kukoc found Redd for a wide-open dunk at the buzzer to pull
Milwaukee to 71-66.
"You don't get nothing for fighting back," Mason said.
The Bucks, who trailed the whole game, cut it to 87-85 on former
Timberwolves forward Joe Smith's tip-in with 1:13 remaining after
Garnett missed a jumper.
But Garnett, a six-time All-Star and the league's highest-paid
player this season at $28 million, made amends by hitting a
turnaround from 15 feet with 50 seconds left to make it 89-85.
"He's our leader -- there's no doubt about that," said Fred
Hoiberg, who started in place of Wally Szczerbiak. Only four
players from last season's team are back for Minnesota, and two --
Troy Hudson (ankle) and Szczerbiak (foot) -- are on the injured
The crowd of 17,784 liked the new look. Sprewell threw an
alley-oop to Garnett for the game's first points. Mark Madsen, who
left the Los Angeles Lakers, took off 2 feet inside the free throw
line and threw down a dunk in second quarter to give the Wolves
their biggest lead, 54-37.
Minnesota coach Flip Saunders sensed more energy inside Target
Center than he had in some time.
"I don't know if it was the new scoreboard, or if it was
opening night or what," he said. "But I think this is going to be
a fun place to come watch this year."
With this influx of new faces, there's some question about how
the ball will be distributed. Cassell was 6-for-18, but Saunders
chalked that up to his third-quarter plea for more aggressiveness
when the Wolves went conservative and got cold (shooting 7-for-25
in the period).
"At times, we played dynamically on both offense and defense,"
Saunders said. "At some point, everybody out there had their
The Bucks -- who cleared out Cassell, Ervin Johnson, Ray Allen,
Gary Payton and Anthony Mason in the past year -- are rebuilding,
and it showed.
Porter, who played 17 seasons with Portland, Minnesota, Miami
and San Antonio, winced through most of the first half as the
Timberwolves dominated inside, scoring 34 points in the paint to
Milwaukee's 14. The Bucks shot 39.1 percent (18-for-46) in the
first half and looked lost several times on offense.
"I just think we dug ourselves a really big hole early," Mason
"There are no moral victories in this league," he said. "That
doesn't work. You hear of coaches that have gotten fired because of
moral victories. It's about winning in this league."
Milwaukee rookie PG T.J. Ford sat out with a sore right
ankle. He's day-to-day. ... Minnesota's original owners, Harvey
Ratner and Marv Wolfenson, were honored before the game. So were
Timberwolves assistant Sidney Lowe and Bucks assistant Sam
Mitchell, two of the Timberwolves' starters in their inaugural
season. ... Milwaukee C Joel Przybilla, who played at Monticello
High School and the University of Minnesota, is on the injured list
with tendinitis in his right knee. ... It was Garnett's sixth
career 20-20. ... Cassell and Johnson came to Minnesota in a June
trade that sent Smith and Anthony Peeler to Milwaukee. Peeler was
released and signed by Sacramento.