MINNEAPOLIS, March 14 (Ticker) --
With some raising the premise that the
Los Angeles Lakers were slumping again, Shaquille O'Neal
O'Neal had five blocks and anchored a strong defensive effort in
the fourth quarter as the Lakers held on for a 106-99 victory
over the Minnesota Timberwolves that snapped a two-game slide.
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The three-time defending champion Lakers have had an erratic
season. In the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff
bracket, they began a four-game trip with dispiriting losses at
Chicago and Detroit.
Facing a team that had won 17 of its last 18 home games, the
Lakers rediscovered their winning ways in unfamiliar fashion.
O'Neal, whose nagging injuries have made him somewhat of a
defensive liability, controlled the interior in the final
period, when Minnesota made just 6-of-23 shots.
"We just wanted to get back on track," O'Neal said. "Our last
two efforts were not good enough. We needed to get a win."
O'Neal also had 26 points, 15 rebounds and six assists in a
terrific all-around game. He took advantage of the absence of
Minnesota 7-footer Rasho Nesterovic, who left in the third
quarter with a sprained ankle.
scored 30 points, Derek Fisher
added 21 and both
made clutch shots down the stretch for Los Angeles.
"Shaq was big for us," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Kobe
isn't feeling well but gave us a good effort, and we made big
plays down the stretch."
"I fought chills the whole game," Bryant said. "I personally
wanted to save my energy for the fourth quarter, when we needed
The Lakers had 11 blocks and 12 steals. Bryant, Fisher and
each had three steals and Horry blocked three
"We were very active," Bryant said. "We had very active hands.
We did a great job contesting shots."
Minnesota All-Star forward Kevin Garnett
had 17 points and 13
rebounds for his league-leading 57th double-double. But he
committed five of his team's 15 turnovers and had just one
basket in the final period.
"We had too many careless turnovers," Garnett said. "They're
just too good to have too many turnovers against. Twelve steals
for them is a lot."
"You're not going to win very many games when you turn it over
as much as we did," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said.
The Lakers took the lead for good at 76-75 on a hook by O'Neal
with 3:19 left in the third quarter. Horry added a hoop and two
free throws and O'Neal sank three free throws, widening the
advantage to 85-79 entering the final period.
A 3-pointer by Kendall Gill
pulled Minnesota within 89-88 with
8:24 remaining, but the Wolves went nearly five minutes without
a basket. During that stretch, they missed seven shots and
committed four turnovers, while the Lakers had four steals and
"In the second half, we got some easy layups and did a better
job protecting the basket," O'Neal said. "They got no easy
Bryant made two foul shots and a pair of jumpers for a 102-95
lead with 1:49 to go. Garnett sank two free throws and Joe
hit a short jumper, making it a three-point game.
With the shot clock running down and Minnesota's defense
scrambling, Fisher drilled an 18-footer from the left wing with
26 seconds to play, sealing the win.
"Once I got it, I looked up and saw we still had four seconds
left," Fisher said. "I took my time and got off a good shot. We
still had four seconds. That's more time than I thought we
Horry scored 11 points for the Lakers, who shot 46 percent
(41-of-89) from the field and committed just five turnovers.
scored 21 points and Wally Szczerbiak
added 15 for
the Wolves, who shot 45 percent (41-of-91) and held a 52-40
advantage on the glass. Nesterovic scored 12 points before his
"I think I came down on Shaq's foot," Nesterovic said. "Injuries
happen to everybody. Playing so many games, everybody gets
injured in different ways. I just hope to get back healthy
The teams split the four-game season series as the Wolves failed
in a bid to win it for the first time.