Regular Season Series (Game 2 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 95

(16-29, 5-18 away)

    2:30 PM ET, January 25, 2004

    Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

    1 2 3 4 T
    PHX 20 25 25 2595
    MIN 16 35 19 2999

    Top Performers

    Phoenix: S. Marion 31 Pts, 13 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

    Minnesota: S. Cassell 32 Pts, 4 Reb, 6 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

    Cassell scores 14 of his 32 in fourth

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- For Sam Cassell, the first quarter and fourth quarter of a basketball game are the same. Maybe that's why he's able to come through in the clutch so often.

    Cassell scored 14 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to their fourth straight win, 99-95 over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.

    "It's no different," answered Cassell when asked to compare crunch time to the first quarter. "It's just basketball, shooting the ball. That's it."

    Over the last 29 games Cassell is shooting 57.5 percent (73-for-127) from the floor in the fourth quarter. He has hit a clutch 3-pointer nearly every game, and on Sunday he went 2-for-3 from behind the 3-point line and 8-for-8 from the foul line down the stretch.

    "Sam is so focussed in the fourth quarter, he gets more and more aggressive" said Kevin Garnett, who finished with 19 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists.

    "I think that's why they brought me here," Cassell said. "I'm accustomed to doing what I've been doing."

    The Wolves moved into a tie with Sacramento for the best record in the Western Conference at 30-12. The Kings lost 108-99 to Dallas on Sunday.

    Minnesota has never been in first place in the conference this late in the season -- something Cassell isn't worrying about.

    "We just play ball and don't get into what the standings are," Cassell said.

    Trenton Hassell added a season-high 15 points and six rebounds for Minnesota, which extended its home winning streak to 11 games.

    Shawn Marion had 31 points and 13 rebounds for the Suns, who have lost three straight and fell to 16-29, the worst record in the West. Joe Johnson had 22 points, five rebounds and six assists, and Jake Voskuhl added 10 points.

    "We're playing like cats and dogs out there," Marion said. "We're trying like crazy to close these games out. Minnesota has that veteran team (and) that makes a difference."

    Garnett hit a turnaround jumper at 5:13 to tie the score at 80. The lead then changed hands twice before Cassell hit a 3-pointer to make it 85-83 with 2:40 left.

    Johnson's two free throws tied it at 85. But Cassell countered with a clutch 3-pointer from the top of the arc to give Minnesota an 88-85 lead with 2:12 left.

    "That's Sam," Marion said. "Sam's a big-time player and big-time players do that."

    Marion's driving layup then pulled Phoenix within 88-87, and Voskuhl hit a foul shot to tie it at 88 with 1:19 left.

    Garnett hit a bank shot in traffic to give Minnesota a 90-88 lead with 1:02 remaining. Marion's driving floater on the ensuing possession was long and Latrell Sprewell was fouled as he came down with the rebound.

    Sprewell, who was just 1-for-7 from the field for four points, hit both foul shots to give the Wolves the lead for good at 92-88 with 42 seconds left.

    Minnesota extended its six-point halftime lead to 66-57 with 4:22 left in the third quarter, but the Suns scored 11 straight points over the next three minutes to take a 68-66 lead.

    Fred Hoiberg's two free throws stopped the run before Johnson hit a jumper for his 11th point of the quarter, giving the Suns 70-68 lead. But, Garnett's one-handed dunk at the buzzer sent the teams into the fourth tied at 70-all.

    Garnett, Cassell and Hassell combined to score Minnesota's last 20 points before the half. The Wolves finished with a 20-11 run to take a 51-45 lead into the break.

    Amare Stoudemire, who aggravated his left ankle and big toe against Portland on Jan. 18, did not dress for the fourth straight game. He is listed as day-to-day, although he could be out at least another week.

    "Amare will play when he doesn't have pain," Suns head coach Mike D'Antoni said.

    Game notes

    Cassell also scored 14 fourth-quarter points in Wednesday's win at Toronto. ... The Wolves have won 11 of 13 games and their 11-game home winning streak is the third longest in team history. ... The Suns have lost seven straight at Target Center. ... Phoenix is winless on the road (0-6) against the Midwest Division.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 95 99
    FGM-FGA 36-85 (.424) 36-82 (.439)
    3PM-3PA 7-19 (.368) 6-14 (.429)
    FTM-FTA 16-20 (.800) 21-28 (.750)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-40 11-46
    Assists 24 26
    Turnovers 10 12
    Steals 4 5
    Blocks 1 6
    Fast Break Points 6 5
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 22 (0/0) 17 (1/0)

    Top Performers

    Shawn Marion Marion
    Points: 31
    Reb: 13
    Ast: 3
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 0
    Sam Cassell Cassell
    Points: 32
    Reb: 4
    Ast: 6
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 1