By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
For those of you unable to stay up until the early morning hours to catch the Wolves' thrilling overtime victory in Game Three, you have my sympathy. Monday night's utterly intense 114-113 win did more than reestablish Minnesota's home-court advantage and put the Wolves up 2-1 in the series. It also enhanced the psychological edge KG and company have gained over Sacramento in the course of beating them five of the last six games. Four of those contests have been nail-biting toss-ups dependent upon the slightest smidgen of grit and luck--and the Wolves have won every one. After a while that consistency begins to lodge in the heads of players and coaches on both sides.
What's more, when it comes to match-ups and substitution patterns, the Wolves' weaknesses seem readily remedied, provided Flip Saunders opens his eyes and his mind to what has and hasn't worked in the past three games. By contrast, the Kings' problems seem less tractable. Here are my hit-and-run observations on what has transpired in the series thus far.
That's the best explanation I can muster for the incredible spew of whistles on Cassell on Monday night. The five fouls that officials called in the two minutes and nine seconds he was on the court in the fourth quarter amounted to a make-up ejection after their restraint in Game Two. Yes, some of the calls were dubious, especially the last one, in which Cassell didn't even seem to make contact with anyone.
But Cassell's lackluster commitment to staying in front of his man has to improve at least a little. The price the Wolves pay for using Spree to shut down Bibby is risking Christie going off on Cassell. Sammy must appreciate that every stop he makes on defense is worth one of those jumpers he cans at the other end.
The Mad Dog's tenacity under the boards at both ends, plus his pair of monster dunks, belies Saunders's contention that Madsen does not offer enough of an offensive threat to deter Sacramento from swarming Garnett. I'd argue that by allowing the Mad Dog to run free, the Kings are more vulnerable on D than if they stick a man on Kandi or Gary Trent and give KG a little more room to operate. That's because Garnett is smart enough to pass out of double and triple coverage, and because KG's offensive effectiveness has more to do with whether he has his shooting touch than who is guarding him. I've seen him both miss relatively open jumpers and score with two guys in his face plenty of times in both playoff series. And it doesn't take a genius to see that, even on offense, Madsen has been more effective than either Kandi or Trent against the Kings.