SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Kevin Garnett already had the smile, the scintillating game and the MVP award -- and when he calmly hit a fallaway jumper in the dwindling seconds of overtime, his fans had their first unforgettable playoff memory.
Garnett scored 15 of his 30 points after the third quarter of the first landmark playoff performance of his career, leading the Timberwolves to a 114-113 victory over the Kings in Game 3 of the second-round series Monday night. Minnesota leads the series, 2-1.
Minnesota nearly blew the victory, allowing Sacramento to rally from a 14-point deficit in the final four minutes of regulation. Peja Stojakovic forced overtime, hitting two late 3-pointers in a thrilling duel with Garnett.
But with a 1-point lead and time running out, the Wolves put their hopes squarely on Garnett's shoulders.
He calmly glanced at the opposite shot clock, moved and jumped backward, releasing a soft jumper that bounced in with 10.8 seconds left in overtime.
When Stojakovic failed to score on a difficult jumper before the buzzer, Garnett led the Timberwolves off the court with a 2-1 series lead. Both victories were tense, last-second affairs -- and Garnett embraced the pressure.
"That's what everybody wants you to do," Garnett said. "I'm in a position where I have to make decisions, like a point guard. If you make it, you're a hero. If you miss it, everybody hates you.
"But I've got a strong back and a strong spine, and I've got full confidence in my teammates."
The Kings played indifferently and seemed headed for a loss until Stojakovic and Mike Bibby suddenly awoke from terrible games with four minutes left in regulation. After Stojakovic tied it, Garnett couldn't even get off a shot in the closing seconds of regulation when three Kings swarmed him. But Garnett shook off that failure and reminded his teammates to trust him. The Timberwolves had lost seven straight first-round series before Garnett and eight new teammates advanced this spring. They've won six of their first eight postseason games.
Stojakovic traded scores with Garnett in an unbearably tense overtime. But after Latrell Sprewell hit a jumper with 59 seconds left to claim a 1-point lead, Chris Webber made a turnover to set up Garnett's big shot. "That's why he's the MVP," Sam Cassell said.
Stojakovic hit two free throws with 6.1 seconds left, and Garnett was called for traveling two seconds later. Sacramento got the ball to Stojakovic, but he failed to draw a foul from Trenton Hassell on an awkward jumper shortly before time expired. Garnett also grabbed 15 rebounds, while Sprewell had 25 points and nine rebounds. Fred Hoiberg hit four 3-pointers, and Hassell scored 16 points.