LOS ANGELES, May 31 (Ticker) -- Kareem Rush took over the role of the hobbling Derek Fisher, making every big shot to help lift the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals.

Rush made six 3-pointers en route to a playoff career-high 18 points as the Lakers reached the title round for the fourth time in five years with a 96-90 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game Six of the Western Conference finals.

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Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are heading back to the NBA Finals.
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Fisher has made a habit out of making huge shots for Los Angeles in the postseason but was limited to just 27 minutes due to a knee injury, giving Rush the opportunity to have the best game of his career.

"I just have to stay ready," he said. "I know I didn't get a lot of playing time in this series. After I made my first shot, I knew it was going to be a good night. It just kept going in for me."

"He played the game of his career, obviously," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We know a lot about him as a shooter. I'm sure not too many people know of that ability that he has. So we encouraged players to get the ball to him."

Rush, who scored just 11 points in the first five games of the series, made his first six shots from the arc. After sitting on the bench for the entire third quarter, he buried a 3-pointer 84 seconds into the fourth to give Los Angeles a 69-68 edge.

The 23-year-old guard sank a shot from the arc with 6:50 left for an 80-74 cushion and all but put away game with a another from the top of the circle with 3:24 left.

"Guys were looking for me," Rush said. "Shots were there and I continued to take them."

The Lakers dominated the final period, overcoming foul trouble that plagued stars Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant throughout the first three quarters.

The Timberwolves took advantage of Los Angeles' foul problems, making 24-of-26 free throws. They led much of the third but fell apart in the final 12 minutes, making only 9-of-21 shots and turning the ball over seven times.

"The fourth quarter was a lot like the first," Minnesota forward Kevin Garnett said. "They applied a little more pressure. You could feel the energy in the building go to a different level. (The Lakers) were just a lot more aggressive than we were."

O'Neal had 25 points and 11 rebounds and Bryant scored 20 for the Lakers, who will open the NBA Finals against the winner of the Eastern Conference finals between Indiana and Detroit on Sunday.

Latrell Sprewell scored 27 points and Garnett collected 22 and 17 rebounds but committed eight of the 19 turnovers for the Timberwolves.

Minnesota played its second straight game without point guard Sam Cassell, who was hobbled by back and hip problems throughout the series.

"The fact that we did not have our general out there with us sure took us off a little bit," Garnett said. "Guys were asked to do things they don't normally do. We all took up the responsibility and ran with it. We still had a chance to win."

It was a disappointing end to the season for the Timberwolves, who finished the regular season with the best record in the West and advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in eight tries.

"It's an empty feeling when you go home a loser," Sprewell said. "Whether you lose in the Finals, the conference finals, the first round ... it doesn't matter. Guys really bonded together and were doing whatever we could there and it hurts."