L.A. Lakers 100, Minnesota 89
LOS ANGELES, May 25 -- Shaquille O'Neal
and the Los Angeles
Lakers have the Minnesota Timberwolves wearing the look of
O'Neal powered his way to 22 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks
as the Lakers muscled past the Timberwolves, 100-89, and took a
2-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals.
NBA TV highlights from|
Gary Payton and the Lakers lead the Wolves 2-1 in the Western Conference Finals.
The Lakers bounced back after Sunday's dispirited loss at
Minnesota in which they tied a franchise playoff record low with
71 points. They easily survived a scoreless first half from
and bottled up Kevin Garnett
in the second half.
After a lackluster 2, O'Neal overwhelmed a quartet of big
men who spent 16 fouls trying to contain him. By the end of
the game, he was being intentionally fouled by the Timberwolves,
who have no other way of slowing down the superstar center.
"You just saw it coming," teammate Karl Malone
said. "He got
riled up and riled up and all of a sudden he kind of got it
"I'm still angry, until we win this series," O'Neal said.
The 7-1, 340-pound O'Neal made 7-of-10 shots and just 8-of-22
foul shots as he moved past Michael Jordan as the all-time
postseason leader in free throw attempts with 1,768.
With Garnett struggling and point guard Sam Cassell
his back injury, the Wolves resorted to "Hack-a-Shaq" in the
fourth quarter. The strategy backfired as O'Neal made six of
his last nine foul shots, foiling a rally by Minnesota.
"When you get into a bad way, it's things you have to do,"
Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. "If we've got to foul Shaq
(40) times, we'll foul him (40) times, if that's what it takes."
"If they foul me 40 times I'll probably only get to the line 15
times," O'Neal said. "I'm the only guy in the world who they
say they're going to foul them. ... I won't go 8-for-22 every
Minnesota big men Ervin Johnson
, Michael Olowokandi
, Mark Madsen
and Oliver Miller
combined for two points, eight rebounds and
16 fouls in 51 minutes.
Bryant took just two shots in the first half, looking more like
a spectator than the most dangerous 1-on-1 player in the game.
But he scored 11 points in the third quarter and 11 more in the
"We had a nice lead. There's really no reason for me to try to
push through it or force shots," Bryant said. "(In the) second
half, they looked to stop everybody else and I got going."
scored 14 of his 18 points in the first quarter and
added nine assists for the Lakers, who shot 51.5 percent
(34-of-66) and had 29 assists. They are two wins away from
their fourth trip to the NBA Finals in five years and host Game
4 on Thursday.
Garnett had 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. But he
shot just four free throws - a total matched by Lakers reserve
- and again was roughed up by Malone before
fouling out. He had one basket in the final 18 minutes.
"It's not an easy situation, playing and talking about the
refs," Garnett said. "I can argue back and forth, but where is
it going to get me?"
Saunders thought there was more to it than that.
"I've heard about Kevin Garnett not having any fouls (in the
first two games)," he said. "I think it's ironic that now in 42
minutes he gets six fouls and in last two games he's gotten
only two fouls."
The Wolves shot just 14 free throws, making 12. The Lakers were
25-of-43 from the line.
"We established the paint," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We
got our inside game going again."
scored 21 points off the bench, including 14 in
a row for his team to get Minnesota within 66-64 late in the
third quarter. But Bryant - who heard mock cheers when he
finally scored on a free throw earlier in the period - sank a
pair of jumpers to help LA take a 70-65 lead into the fourth
Two 3-pointers by Bryant pushed the lead to 91-74 with 4:46 left
before a flurry of 3-pointers pulled the Wolves within 93-85
with 2:57 to go. Minnesota employed "Hack-a-Shaq," but O'Neal
foiled the strategy by making 2-of-4 from the line.
"Flip normally doesn't go to the Hack-a-Shaq tactics," Bryant
"Being down 10, we decided to gamble on those 42 seconds,"
Saunders said. "When there's a lot of free throws, it is tough
to get pace in the game."
Payton got the Lakers going with his perimeter play. His jumper
gave LA the lead for good at 15-13 with 4:13 left in the first
The Lakers held a 44-35 halftime lead. Cassell scored 15 of his
18 points in the first half, keeping the Wolves in it. Neither
team shot a free throw in the first half.
"Sam tightened up a little bit at halftime, tried to get going,"
Saunders said. "He hit a couple of shots but you could see
that even defensively he didn't have the mobility."