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Suns lose 3 straight, all at home

12/4/2003

PHOENIX (AP) -- In the fourth quarter, give the ball to Sam
Cassell.

Minnesota's point guard had another strong final period, scored
16 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Timberwolves
to a 92-79 victory over the struggling Phoenix Suns.

Cassell shot 57 percent in the fourth quarters of Minnesota's
seven previous games, and he was even better against the Suns,
going 5-for-5 -- three of them 3-pointers.

"I don't consider myself a 3-point shooter, but I'll take it,"
he said. "Today I took them, and I hit them."

Cassell, with his fourth consecutive 20-point game, also had
eight assists and seven rebounds.

"We didn't do anything spectacular," Cassell said. "We just
executed our sets. Guys got open shots and took them."

The Timberwolves outscored the Suns 31-19 in the fourth quarter.

"We should be a team that finishes strong because of the
veteran players we have," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said.

Latrell Sprewell scored 21 for Minnesota. Kevin Garnett went
3-for-11 through three quarters but was 4-for-7 in the fourth to
finish with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Garnett said Cassell and Sprewell were in such a good rhythm, he
didn't want to disrupt the offensive flow. But when things got a
bit stagnant, the Timberwolves started getting the ball inside, and
that often resulted in wide open long shots.

"Now you've had your fun, let's pound it inside now," Garnett
said. "We did that."

The Suns lost their third straight, all at home, and have
dropped four of five overall as the pressure builds on coach Frank
Johnson after the team made the playoffs last season.

"I believe he's doing everything in his power to try to put us
in situations to win games," said Stephon Marbury, who scored 32
points on 14-for-25 shooting. "We're going out trying to execute
those plans, but it's just not happening."

Amare Stoudemire scored 14, only four in the second half. Penny
Hardaway made his first start of the season and scored eight
points.

The Suns shot 38 percent. Shawn Marion, Scott Williams, Joe
Johnson and Tom Gugliotta were a combined 6-for-33. Phoenix scored
a season-low 33 points in the second half.

"Certainly I'm disappointed as far as what we've been able to
do, or what we have not been able to do," Frank Johnson said.
"But it's something I feel we can still fight our way out of.
Maybe we'll use the road to get it back and build our confidence."

Minnesota broke away from a 64-64 tie with a 16-2 run capped by
Garnett's 15-foot bank shot that made it 80-66 with 4:58 to play.
Marbury's 3-pointer cut it to 80-72, but Phoenix got no closer.

Cassell sank consecutive 3-pointers to put the Timberwolves up
for good, 67-64 with 9:10 remaining.

Marbury scored the last six points in a 12-2 run that put the
Suns up 44-40 with 2:03 left in the first half, but Fred Hoiberg
and Sprewell sank 3-pointers in a 7-0 spurt and Minnesota led at
the break 47-46.

Each team scored 14 points in an ugly third quarter, and the
Timberwolves led 61-60 entering the fourth. The Suns shot 29
percent (6-for-21) and Minnesota 32 percent (7-for-22) in the
third.

Game notes
The Suns were without rookie Leandro Barbosa, who strained
his back when he was knocked to the floor on a drive to the basket
in Monday's loss to Indiana. ... Garnett was the only Minnesota
starter Wednesday night who was with the Timberwolves last season.
... Minnesota was called for three fouls in the first half and six
through three quarters. ... Johnson, in his first game as a
reserve, was 1-for-8 shooting. Gugliotta was 0-for-6. ... Minnesota
reserve Mark Madsen sat out his fourth consecutive game with back
spasms.