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L.A. Lakers 101, Minnesota 85
Bryant Dominates the Fourth, Lakers Advance

Kobe Bryant led all scorers as the Lakers slipped past the Wolves.
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LOS ANGELES, May 1 (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal showed why the Minnesota Timberwolves were given virtually no chance entering Game 6 of their Western Conference first-round series with the Los Angeles Lakers.

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Bryant scored 14 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter and O'Neal just missed a triple-double as the Lakers eliminated the Timberwolves with a 101-85 victory.

Fifth-seeded Los Angeles has won 13 straight playoff series and advanced to meet top-seeded San Antonio in a conference semifinals series that begins on Monday. The three-time defending champion Lakers have ousted the Spurs each of the last two seasons, including a five-game triumph in the conference semifinals last season.

The Spurs swept all four regular-season matchups with the Lakers this season and Bryant said earlier that maybe Los Angeles would return the favor with a sweep in the playoffs.

"I think Kobe said something about that, that we could sweep them," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "That's what Kobe said. That is a possibility."

O'Neal scored the Lakers' first nine points and finished with 24 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists. Los Angeles placed all five starters in double figures.

The Timberwolves took a 2-1 lead in the series with a dramatic overtime victory here last Thursday in which Kevin Garnett fouled out. But they faltered down the stretch in Game 4, suffered a 120-90 loss at home in the fifth game and entered with a 2-6 record in elimination games.

"I am disappointed," Garnett said. "We did a lot of good things in this series. I think that we tested them a little bit. We sort of got under their skin a little bit. But they turned it up when they had to."

After Minnesota scored the final nine points of the third quarter to get within 69-63, Bryant quickly asserted himself in the fourth period. He scored the Lakers' first 10 points of the period, including a turnaround jumper over Anthony Peeler for a 79-65 cushion.

That outburst triggered an 18-2 tear to open the quarter that included an alley-oop dunk by Devean George off a feed from Bryant. O'Neal's two free throws ended it and made it 87-65 with over seven minutes left.

"I mad a conscious effort to be aggressive," Bryant said. "We didn't close the third quarter out very well," Bryant said. "It was important to start the fourth quarter and establish momentum."

Garnett had his sixth straight double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds, but Minnesota dropped to 0-7 all-time in postseason series. The Timberwolves are 7-22 in postseason games, including 3-13 on the road.

O'Neal's strong passing game helped Los Angeles to a 34-19 advantage in assists. Bryant contributed eight and Robert Horry added six.

"Probably the most amazing stat I have ever seen when you look at the stat sheet is they scored 101 points and their two main players had something to do with 89 of their 101 points when you look at the number of points they scored and the 17 assists," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "That is a great statistic."

Derek Fisher scored 16 points, George netted 12 and Horry added 11 and 10 rebounds. The Lakers held a commanding 51-41 edge on the glass, with an 18-11 advantage on the offensive end.

Troy Hudson scored 14 of his 18 points in the first quarter as Minnesota built a 30-25 advantage. But the Timberwolves had just five baskets and 13 points in the second period and baskets by O'Neal and Fisher provided Los Angeles with a 47-43 lead at intermission.

"I just think we lost concentration at times," Hudson said. "When you play a team like the Los Angeles lakers, the world champs, you cannot afford to do that."

The Lakers opened the second half with a 10-2 spurt that Bryant and Fisher capped with 3-pointers. Fisher's jumper with 2:40 remaining in the quarter gave Los Angeles a 69-54 advantage before Minnesota closed the quarter strong.

The Timberwolves did not have a basket in the fourth quarter until Garnett nailed a jumper with 6:29 left to cut the deficit to 87-67.

The Lakers tried to get O'Neal his 10th assist in the final minutes and he almost got it when he fed Horry for an apparent layup with just over three minutes to go. But Horry was fouled by Rasho Nesterovic, resulting in a chorus of boos from the Staples Center crowd.



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