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No bench for ailing Cassell

Associated Press
Published May 23, 2004

MINNEAPOLIS - Sam Cassell was held out of practice Saturday because of a bad back, but Minnesota's point guard plans to play in Game 2 of the West final.

The Timberwolves, trailing 1-0 in the series to Los Angeles, host the Lakers tonight.

"Crying isn't going to make it better," Cassell said. "I just have to continue to do what I can do when I'm out there."

Cassell, playing in obvious pain, scored 16 in 32 minutes in Game 1 on Friday before heading to the bench with 1:27 left in the third quarter. He was missed down the stretch as the Lakers pulled away for a 97-88 win. Cassell said he came down awkwardly after jumping to tip a ball and the landing set the injury back to "square one."

The 34-year-old Cassell, who has had a career season for the Wolves after arriving from Milwaukee in a trade last summer, spent Saturday getting treatment on his back. Coach Flip Saunders said he would decide whether to play Cassell before the game.

With or without Cassell, Saunders knows the importance of winning Game 2.

"It's difficult to come back from 0-2 anyway, but even more so when you lose the first two at your place," he said. "... At some point, we'll have to slow down Shaq. I didn't think we were as aggressive on him as we needed to be."

Shaquille O'Neal led the Lakers in Game 1 with 27 points and 18 rebounds and blocked four shots.

PHOENIX 65, CONNECTICUT 58: Diana Taurasi was all business in her return to Connecticut. The former UConn star scored 26 to lead the Mercury in her second pro game and first in the state where she led the Huskies to three straight NCAA titles.

Taurasi drew a standing ovation during introductions from the sellout 9,341. Despite wearing the opponent's colors, she drew cheers each time she scored en route to spoiling the Sun's season opener.

Taj McWilliams-Franklin led Connecticut with 14 points. The game also marked the debut of Sun rookie Lindsay Whalen, who led Minnesota to the Final Four in March. She struggled early before getting all five of her points in the final two minutes.

CHARLOTTE 71, WASHINGTON 68: Allison Feaster made a 17-foot jumper with 1:08 left to put the visiting Sting ahead for good 69-68. Feaster scored 15 and was one of five Charlotte players in double figures. Washington's Chamique Holdsclaw missed a jumper with 12 seconds left and rookie Alana Beard missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds. Beard forced two steals and blocked four shots, but the former Duke All-American shot just 3-for-10 and finished with 10 points.

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