L.A. Lakers 97, Minnesota 88
MINNEAPOLIS, May 21 (Ticker) --
Once again, Derek Fisher
the Los Angeles Lakers are more than the "Fantastic Four."
Fisher scored 14 points -- all on perimeter shots -- as the Lakers
wasted no time taking home-court advantage away from the
Minnesota Timberwolves with a 97-88 victory in Game 1 of the
Western Conference Finals.
NBA TV highlights from|
Shaquille O'Neal dictated things in the paint Friday in Game 1.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images
"You need players that are supporting players to step up and
make plays," Fisher said. "Most nights in the playoffs, stars
are going to be stars. That's what they get paid to do. But
the guys like myself ... and everybody else on our team are
going to continue to make contributions for us."
Playing for the first time in six days, the Lakers got their
expected performances from superstars Shaquille O'Neal
and Kobe Bryant
and another outstanding defensive effort from Karl Malone
, this time on NBA MVP Kevin Garnett
But during the pivotal stretches of the game, it was Fisher
repeatedly knocking down outside shots. The hero of the
conference semifinals made 4-of-5 3-pointers as he exploited
Minnesota's double-teams on O'Neal and Bryant.
"It seems to be Derek Fisher's playoffs this year for us,"
reserve forward Rick Fox
said. "They seemed to leave Derek
open, and the ball found him and he made shots."
In an 11-0 burst that closed the third quarter and gave the
Lakers the lead for good, Fisher drilled a pair of 3-pointers
and a 15-footer off the dribble just before the horn.
"I definitely don't get as many looks at the basket
consecutively as I used to in the past," said Fisher, who was
bumped to the bench this season with the arrival of Gary Payton
"In the latter part of the regular season and into the
playoffs, I'm feeling comfortable."
Coming off an exhausting seven-game series against Sacramento
that ended two days ago, Minnesota rallied and closed to 92-88
with 2:38 remaining. But the Timberwolves committed a turnover
and Garnett was stopped by Malone before Fisher delivered the
dagger, a 3-pointer with 58 seconds to go.
"I think the momentum from (Fisher) has definitely spilled over
from the past series, and he's riding the hot hand," Lakers
coach Phil Jackson
said. "He took some big shots and helped us
down the stretch."
"Derek Fisher has proven that he can hit
those shots," Minnesota guard Trenton Hassell
said. "We weren't
quick enough in our rotation, and he got wide-open looks."
O'Neal had 27 points, 18 rebounds and five assists as he
effectively dealt with a quartet of defenders. Bryant scored 10
of his 23 points in the third quarter, jump-starting the
The 41-year-old Malone, who did a remarkable job on Tim Duncan
in the conference semifinals, played Garnett to a virtual
standstill. He scored 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting and swept
11 boards while limiting a spent Garnett to 16 and 10.
"You just try to make him work hard every time he's out there,"
Malone said. "Even if he's not involved, you just try to be
around him and try to keep him off the boards. He still got a
"This is not the time to be tired," Garnett said. "Fatigue is
not a word I'm going to use, ever."
In the conference finals for the first time, the top-seeded
Timberwolves played the last 16 minutes without All-Star guard
, who has been bothered by a lower back injury. He
has 48 hours to recuperate before Game 2 here on Sunday.
"Sometimes (the injury) allows me to do things and sometimes it
doesn't allow me to do things," said Cassell, who had 16 points
and eight assists. "In the fourth quarter, it didn't allow me
to get off the bench."
In the first round last year, the Lakers ambushed the host
Wolves in Game 1 of a series Los Angeles eventually won 4-2.
A drive by Latrell Sprewell
, who scored 23 points, cut the
deficit to 88-86 with 4:03 to play. But Malone worked a
give-and-go that led to Devean George
's dunk, then sank a jumper
to make it 92-86 with 2:58 left.
"We're starting to hit a little stride, like we did early on in
the season," Malone said. "If that's the case, it couldn't have
come at a better time."
Minnesota got an early lift from center Michael Olowokandi
had 10 points and 11 rebounds. He did not play in the last four
games against Sacramento but came on in the first quarter for
and scored eight points.
"Michael played well, considering he hasn't played much in the
last three weeks," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders
said. "He had
Late in the second quarter, the Wolves went to 300-pounder
in an effort to slow O'Neal, who still had 15
points in the first half, helping the Lakers to a 46-44 lead.
Forward Mark Madsen
also took an unsuccessful turn on O'Neal,
who made 9-of-16 shots and 9-of-11 free throws.
Sprewell scored 11 points in the third quarter, a burst that was
offset by Bryant and Fisher.