Minnesota 98, L.A. Lakers 96
MINNEAPOLIS, May 29 (Ticker) -- Kevin Garnett
and the Minnesota
Timberwolves fought off elimination. The Los Angeles Lakers
didn't seem to mind.
Garnett had 30 points and 19 rebounds as the Timberwolves
extended their season with a 98-96 victory over the Lakers, who
lost a close-out game for the first time in four years.
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Wally Szczerbiak and the Wolves had reason for excitement.
Top-seeded Minnesota still trails the Western Conference Finals,
3-2, and the series returns to Los Angeles for Game Six on
Monday. But the Timberwolves are alive, thanks to the NBA MVP.
Playing virtually the entire game, Garnett made 10-of-23 shots and 10-of-11 free
throws. On defense, he took a turn on several players,
including Shaquille O'Neal
"What we ask KG to do is remarkable," said Minnesota coach Flip Saunders
, who used a small lineup. "The only thing that I can
think of that is similar is what Magic (Johnson) did against
Philadelphia (in the 1980 Finals). ... He told me at half that
he could go the whole way."
"I am not tired at all," Garnett said. "Fatigue is not a word I
am going to use ever."
With All-Star guard Sam Cassell
sidelined by a back injury,
gave the offense a boost with 28 points on
"No one wants the season to be over," Sprewell said. "We didn't
want to go home and I think we played that way."
The Timberwolves contained O'Neal and Kobe Bryant
stretches and opened an 86-70 lead midway through the fourth
quarter before withstanding a pair of surges by the Lakers.
"Down the stretch and in the second half I never had the sense
that we were going to lose," Saunders said.
Bryant scored 23 points for Los Angeles, which gave away a pair
of sizable leads in the first half and did not show their normal
intensity in the second half until it was too late.
"I thought we didn't play very smart basketball," Lakers coach
said. "We ask them to move the ball and they were
trying to take them off the dribble."
"We wanted to finish the series," said Bryant, who made 8-of-19
shots. "It wasn't for a lack of effort. That would be an
injustice to Minnesota. They played extremely hard."
O'Neal had 17 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out for the
Lakers, who had won 12 straight close-out games since losing
Game 5 of the 2000 NBA Finals at Indiana.
The Lakers looked like they were going for the kill when they
jumped to a 20-10 lead late in the first quarter. After
Minnesota fought back for a 23-23 tie early in the second
period, L.A. rebuilt a 40-33 lead with 3:33 left on a layup by
, who scored 17 points off the bench.
But the Wolves closed the quarter with a 13-0 burst. Baskets by
and Garnett opened the second half and gave
Minnesota a 50-40 lead. Meanwhile, O'Neal was mired in a
stretch where he went 24 minutes without a basket.
Sprewell scored 11 straight points for Minnesota in the fourth
quarter before L.A. cut it to 86-80 with 3:21 to go on a layup by
Malone, who had 17 points.
But Fred Hoiberg
, who scored 14 points off the bench, sank a
jumper and drew a foul from Bryant. His free throw, plus four
from Garnett, made it 93-80 with 1:31 left.
"Freddy's shot got us back in it and our crowd going," Garnett