Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 4)

Series starts 12/3

Game 1: Wednesday, December 3rd
Game 2: Sunday, January 25th
Game 3: Tuesday, February 17th
Game 4: Friday, March 19th

Suns 79

(7-10, 6-6 home)

    7:00 PM ET, December 3, 2003

    US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

    1 2 3 4 T
    MIN 26 21 14 3192
    PHX 22 24 14 1979

    Top Performers

    Minnesota: S. Cassell 27 Pts, 7 Reb, 8 Ast

    Phoenix: S. Marbury 32 Pts, 4 Reb, 6 Ast, 1 Stl

    Suns lose 3 straight, all at home

    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.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 92 79
    FGM-FGA 38-80 (.475) 34-89 (.382)
    3PM-3PA 7-18 (.389) 1-7 (.143)
    FTM-FTA 9-15 (.600) 10-12 (.833)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-47 9-40
    Assists 23 15
    Turnovers 15 11
    Steals 6 7
    Blocks 9 1
    Fast Break Points 5 7
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 12 (0/0) 18 (1/0)

    Top Performers

    Sam Cassell Cassell
    Points: 27
    Reb: 7
    Ast: 8
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 0
    Stephon Marbury Marbury
    Points: 32
    Reb: 4
    Ast: 6
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 0