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Cassell stepping up for Wolves

Saint Paul Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS – Of all the available explanations for why Sam Cassell goes from mild-mannered point guard to super-clutch scorer when the fourth quarter rolls around, this is easily the most fun:

He’s like an insulated beverage container. So to speak.

“Like Don Nelson said – why when you put cold water into a Thermos does it stay cold, and why when you put hot water in, it stays hot?” Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. “It’s just what he is. That’s his mentality.”

Once again, in the Wolves’ absolutely necessary Game 2 victory over Sacramento on Saturday, Cassell was a fourth-quarter savior, scoring 10 of his 19 points in the final period. It was the fourth time in seven playoff games he has scored double digits in the fourth. He is shooting 56.3 percent from the floor in fourth quarters this postseason.

“I don’t mind being the goat. Somebody’s got to be the goat,” Cassell said after practice Sunday. “I’ve been saying the whole year, Flip and (Kevin McHale) brought me here for this kind of situation. I don’t mind making plays down the stretch in tough games.”

The next logical question: Has Cassell become the Wolves’ No. 1 scoring option with the game in the balance? Kevin Garnett missed 5 of 6 fourth-quarter shots in Game 1, then missed the only two he took in Game 2.

Cassell, meanwhile, has scored 22 fourth-quarter points against Sacramento. But the Wolves refuse to transfer the deed to the fourth quarter from their MVP.

“No doubt about it,” Cassell said. “Kevin’s always first – in quarter one, quarter two, quarter three and quarter four. We play off him.”

It helps, then, to have bulletproof confidence.

Or, as Wolves guard Fred Hoiberg put it after Game 2, “Pressure isn’t in Sam’s vocabulary.”

“My team has relied on me the whole year to make shots in the fourth quarter,” Cassell said. “We go through Kevin and me.”

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