LOS ANGELES, May 27 (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant again came alive in the third quarter, all but leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves for dead.

Bryant scored 18 of his 31 points in the third and Shaquille O'Neal and Karl Malone dominated inside as the Los Angeles Lakers pushed the Timberwolves to the brink of elimination with a 92-85 victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

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Shaquille O'Neal's 19 points and 19 boards led L.A. to a 3-1 series lead.
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After going scoreless in the first half of Game 3, Bryant scored 22 points in the second half. He had another subpar first half in this one, managing just nine points before posting his best quarter of the playoffs.

"I just read it and pace it out," Bryant said. "Collapse the defense in the first half by swinging it around and moving the ball. In the second half, when I sense some momentum and I feel like it's time to go in for the kill, that's when I do it."

Bryant made 6-of-10 shots in the third, including a spectacular reverse layup as he was fouled by Minnesota's Michael Olowokandi with 5:19 remaining.

Bryant scored seven straight points to spark a 19-6 run the Lakers used to end the third quarter. He dominated the final stages of the quarter with a jumper, two free throws and three-point play in a span of two minutes.

"He's one of those guys that when he gets one or two shots, he gets things going," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "He has an uncanny ability to take over games at different periods of time."

Bryant made the final basket of the period, a jumper with two seconds left to give the Lakers a 75-60 cushion.

Bryant's heroics overshadowed a mammoth effort by O'Neal, who had 19 points and 19 rebounds.

"I'm just trying to help my team win," said O'Neal, who made 6-of-10 shots from the floor and 7-of-15 free throws. "I'm just trying to do the little things at times. I don't really get the 20 to 25 shots I used to get. I block shots, get some rebounds."

"(O'Neal) just stepped it up," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Some time during the first half he just said, 'You guys find your man and I'll find the rebounds out there.'"

Malone added 12 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists as Los Angeles held a commanding 52-42 edge on the glass.

The Lakers took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and can advance to the NBA Finals for the fourth time in five seasons with a win at the Target Center on Saturday.

"We can see the light to the Finals, which is one more game," Lakers forward Rick Fox said. "It is going to have great significance for all of us in here and we are just one game away."

"Right now we're down to playing a one-game series," Saunders said. "Our main focus is to go home and find a way to keep extending it."

Kevin Garnett barely missed a triple-double with 28 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists for the Timberwolves, who were held to just 38 percent (32-of-84) shooting, including 5-of-17 from 3-point range.

Minnesota had little flow offensively without All-Star point guard Sam Cassell, who played only five minutes off the bench due to back spasms.

"It's tough right now, not having the ability to physically do it," Cassell said. "I understand injuries are a part of professional basketball, but it's just tough right now for me."

Wally Szczerbiak scored 19 points off the bench and Latrell Sprewell had 12 but made only 4-of-18 shots from the floor.

Minnesota led most of the first half, but Los Angeles closed the second quarter with a 15-5 run to take the lead for good. Derek Fisher scored six of his 15 points during the spurt, which gave the Lakers a 45-40 halftime cushion.