L.A. Lakers 90, Minnesota 73
LOS ANGELES, March 26 (Ticker) --
The Los Angeles Lakers are rounding
into postseason form, and there doesn't seem to be anything the
rest of the Western Conference can do about it.
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scored 35 points and Shaquille O'Neal
added 22 and
18 rebounds as the Lakers won their seventh straight game, a
90-73 thrashing of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
With all four superstars healthy and playing well together, the
Lakers have become formidable. Their current streak began
against some of the NBA's patsies, but in their last two games,
they have dismantled division leaders Sacramento and Minnesota.
"We have everybody healthy and we are starting to build our
chemistry back," Bryant said.
Bryant continues to play his best basketball of the season,
making 13-of-21 shots and adding nine rebounds, five assists,
two steals and two blocks. During the winning streak, he is
averaging 31.4 points.
O'Neal was his usual dominant self, collecting his 11th straight
double-double. He is averaging 21.7 points and 17 rebounds
during the streak.
The defense also has gotten tougher, holding Minnesota - the
best-shooting team in the NBA - to just 31 percent (27-of-86).
The Timberwolves' "Three-Headed Monster" of Kevin Garnett
, Sam Cassell
and Latrell Sprewell
made a combined 15-of-43 shots.
"When you go out there and put the effort forward on the
defensive end, good things happen," forward Karl Malone
"I think this win is good for us," Bryant said. "It shows we
are improving and playing defense consistently."
The Lakers (49-23) hurdled the Wolves (49-24) in the Western
Conference standings and are two games behind Sacramento for the
Pacific Division lead.
"When we get in the playoffs, we are confident that we can beat
anybody," Bryant said.
"The team's looking really good right now
with 10 games left, before the real season starts," O'Neal
The Lakers took the lead for good near the end of the first
quarter, which saw Bryant score 11 points. They widened the
advantage to 50-42 at halftime before controlling the third
Bryant had a layup and 3-pointer in an 11-0 spurt that pushed
the margin to 70-48 with 5:05 left. O'Neal's driving finger
roll capped the quarter and made it 78-54.
In the period, Bryant scored 13 points and the Lakers shot 50
percent (13-of-26) while holding the Wolves to 26 percent
"We just let them do whatever they wanted to do," Cassell said.
"They dictated the tempo, how they were going to play, how the
game was going to play (out), and we didn't do anything about