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L.A. Lakers 120, Minnesota 09
Lakers One Victory From Next Round

Kobe Bryant split the defense against Minnesota on Tuesday.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

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MINNEAPOLIS, April 29 (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers showed the Minnesota Timberwolves what it takes to win a big playoff game.

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Dunk of the Night:
Kobe Bryant 

Bryant scored 32 points, O'Neal added 27 and the Lakers got great support in a 120-90 destruction of the Timberwolves that gave them a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference first-round series.

The fifth-seeded Lakers appeared to be in trouble after losing Game Three at home in overtime to fall behind in the series. But they evened things with a win in Game Four on Sunday and showed their huge advantage in experience Tuesday.

"Experience pays off when you get in games like this," Bryant said. "We know how to handle it and know how to apply pressure to the other team. ... We don't need to get too excited about this win. We did what champions are supposed to do."

"We just had a little bit more intensity than they did," O'Neal said. "This is the first game in a long time we've had a good four quarters."

As usual, the three-time defending champions relied heavily on Bryant, who scored 16 points in the third quarter, and O'Neal, who made 10-of-18 shots and pulled down 11 rebounds.

But they also received big performances from Derek Fisher and Robert Horry, who have been part of all three title teams but had struggled in this series.

Fisher, who had been outplayed by Minnesota guard Troy Hudson, scored 24 points. Horry, who had not made a 3-pointer in the first four games, made two in a second-quarter surge that gave the Lakers the lead for good.

"Fisher was instrumental and inspirational," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Shaq dominated down low. Kobe had a great second half. Horry made some big shots and contributed nicely."

"Tonight we set the tone early, and those first few minutes in the third period were extremely important," Fisher said.

Playing their 600th playoff game in search of their 15th championship, the Lakers thoroughly outclassed the Timberwolves, who were playing their 28th playoff game in search of their first series win.

"Well, it was Groundhog Day, very similar to Game One, with Fisher hitting threes and them establishing their role players," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "We played out of character."

In what may have been the biggest game in the history of the franchise, Minnesota came up very small. Superstar Kevin Garnett had 25 points and 16 rebounds but got very little help.

The Lakers shot 54 percent (45-of-83), including 12-of-23 from 3-point range. They held a 44-36 edge on the glass and committed just seven turnovers.

"This is a team that I recognize," Jackson said. "We got into our defensive core, limited turnovers and found open men - and our 3-point shooters made shots."

Los Angeles can advance to the conference semifinals for the seventh straight year with a win at home Thursday.

"It's win or die," Garnett said. "We've got all the confidence in the world and we've won at Staples before. I hope they don't think it's over, because we're coming."

A clutch playoff performer, Horry missed his first 11 3-pointers of the series before making one to give the Lakers the lead for good at 43-40 with 4:07 left in the second quarter. He added another between jumpers by Fisher to extend the lead to 52-44 with 1:54 remaining.

O'Neal had a basket, two free throws and another hoop to make it 58-46 just before halftime.

After a quiet first half, Bryant exploded in the third quarter. With 7:23 left, he got going with a spectacular play, driving past Garnett along the right baseline and coming up on the other side of the rim for a reverse dunk that made it 73-55.

"My teammates were really excited about my dunk," Bryant said. "A slam like that can demoralize a team and silence the crowd. I'm interested to see it on tape."

Bryant had 14 more points in the rest of the quarter as the Lakers extended to a 94-73 bulge entering the final period. The Wolves got no closer than 18 points thereafter. Devean George started for the injured Rick Fox and had 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Fox tore a leg tendon in Game Four and is out for the playoffs.

"George did a great job replacing Rick Fox," Jackson said.

Hudson had 14 points and seven assists for Minnesota, which shot 43 percent (36-of-84) and committed 17 turnovers. Wally Szczerbiak continued to struggle, managing just nine points on 3-of-7 shooting.

"I think Wally has a lot of pressure on him to score in this town," Bryant said. "The crowd is really on him whenever he misses a shot."

Fisher was 8-of-10 overall and 5-of-7 from the arc. He scored nine points in the first quarter as the Lakers grabbed a 28-25 lead.

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