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Relax, everything will be OK

If you're a Wolves' fan, there's no need to panic

Shaq is playing Mirror, Mirror on the Wall. Payton is pouting. Kobe is calculating his next move... not on a court but in a courtroom in Eagle, Colo. In between dosages of Geritol, Malone manages to flop his way to the foul line.

Forever a team in disarray, the Los Angeles Lakers put out a fire in Houston and took a commanding 3-1 lead over the Rockets into the best-of-seven WesternConference quarterfinals that returns to Tinseltown for Game 5 that is played, I think, on Memorial Day. (Game 6 is scheduled for the Fourth of July and the deciding Game 7, we believe, is on Labor Day).

The San Antonio Spurs, a team that supposedly would miss David Robinson and lose patience with addition Rasho Nesterovic this season, disposed of the Memphis Grizzlies in four games. San Antonio, the vanilla flavored ice cream in Baskin Robbins' NBA freezer, has won 15 straight games. Their last loss was March 23.

There is no more fundamentally sound post player in the NBA than Tim Duncan. As long as he is healthy, the Spurs remain the favorite to defend their NBA title.

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The Sacramento-Dallas series is the West's best imitation of Arena Football. Conventional thinking suggests that after the Kings and Mavs conclude their back-and-forth drag race of a series, the victor will hit a brick wall in the next round when its opponent applies defense, which will seem suffocating before the shot clock runs out.

That leaves the Timberwolves-Nuggets series, which prior to Saturday had been a fairly impressive exhibition of offensive and defensive basketball by the hometown five. Considering Latrell Sprewell was quiet in Game 1 and Sam Cassell was brutal in Game 2, and Kevin Garnett was off (by KG standards) in Game 2 as well, the Wolves were feeling high about leading the series 2-0.

They must not have been feeling a mile high. Against Denver late Saturday night, they looked a mile low. A word of warning: Don't believe one announcer's dribble attributing the Wolves' slow start to the thin air Saturday in mountainous Denver. The Wolves started slow because Denver exploded out of the gates and they answered with bricks. The Nuggets were energetic and enthusiastic, the Wolves were prosaic.

One of the many disadvantages of the first round lasting almost three weeks is the amount of time between games. Because the Highway 52 road construction is on a swifter pace than the NBA playoffs, folks in our business feel the need to overanalyze.

We're left with two choices regarding our Timberwolves. We can write off Game 3 as an aberration saying the Wolves were due for a letdown after winning two emotional games at home.

Or we can panic saying the Wolves face a must-win tonight, because if they lose and the series is even at 2-2, the momentum is with the Nuggets and Minnesota will be reminded of its seven straight first-round-and-outs.

Relax, members of the Timberwolves' den.

Saturday's loss was all about emotion, not talent, for Minnesota. Saturday's win was all about emotion, not talent, for Denver.

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The better team is winning every series in the NBA quarterfinals. Besides adding more TV games and revenue, that's what a seven-game series does, it enables the better team to move on. That's why the league aborted the best-of-five format in the first round.

Most Wolves fans know -- not hope -- this will be the year Minnesota moves on.

Even though sports offers unpredictability, we know the Wolves will eventually dispose of the Nuggets. It's just a matter of time.

So why are so many so antsy? Why the rising blood pressures, sick stomachs and nervous twitches when all our Wolves did was lose one game in the first round of the playoffs?

We're Minnesotans, that's why.

If we're not obsessing about Drew Pearson's push-off in the 1975 NFC Championship, we're still wiping up tears from the unforgettable pass last December from Josh McCown to Nathan Poole.

It doesn't matter those are horrific football memories and now we're talking basketball. We're a cursed bunch. We won't let it go.

Troy Young is a sports writer for the Post-Bulletin. He can be reached at tyoung@postbulletin.com

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