MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Garnett's inability to lead his team to playoff success has sullied his otherwise stellar career with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Garnett just finished his best season yet, posting career highs in points (23.0), rebounds (13.4) and assists (6.0) as well as six triple-doubles.
Yet the numbers that matter most in the big picture have come late April, when Minnesota has gone 0-for-6 in the first round of the playoffs.
The fourth-seeded Wolves start postseason No. 7 at home Sunday afternoon against the three-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
''I don't think of Kevin Garnett not winning a playoff series,'' said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. ''I think of the Minnesota team not wining a playoff series. Kevin's obviously is a fine player on that team, but it doesn't sit on his shoulders.
Comparing Garnett's record to Michael Jordan's early days with Chicago, Jackson pointed out that once Jordan's teams finally did some damage in the playoffs, everyone expected the Bulls to win because Jordan was such a great player.
''That's going to happen to Kevin eventually, too,'' Jackson said Saturday at the Lakers' practice facility before the team left for Minnesota.
Garnett, though, is further along in his career than Jordan was as the same age.
''You can't feel sorry for yourself,'' Garnett said. ''This is a no-nonsense league. It's eat or be eaten. No one cares that we've lost in the first round for 'X' amount of years.''
Last year, the criticism of Garnett peaked -- in particular for his perceived refusal to dominate the ball in the fourth quarter when his team most needs his offense.
One of the main strengths of Garnett's game, though, is his unselfishness.
For a 7-footer, Garnett possesses a keen ability to find open teammates, see the entire floor and play anywhere.
''I can't say I'm worried about how they feel about me,'' Garnett said. ''I'm not going to change any of that. I've always been a person who can look myself in the mirror and be satisfied. I've got to get into what got me where. I've got to be aggressive, control my emotions, make sure I'm centered.
''I'm looking forward to it.''
The Lakers know what they have to do to advance past a team that split the season series with them.
''It's very easy to know the head is Kevin Garnett,'' Rick Fox said. ''Without being violent about it, we'll try to cut it off. Once we do that, the other guys will have to step up.''
The Lakers are 15-2 on the road in the playoffs the last two years, but the past is the past -- just as it is for the Timberwolves.
Six straight first-round exits?
''That has never been mentioned,'' Saunders said. ''We didn't play the Lakers the last six times. We're playing them now.''
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