LOS ANGELES, May 25 -- Shaquille O'Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers have the Minnesota Timberwolves wearing the look of desperation.

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.

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Gary Payton and the Lakers lead the Wolves 2-1 in the Western Conference Finals.
Catherine Steenkeste
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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 Kobe Bryant 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 going."

"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 hobbled by 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 night."

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 final period.

"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."

Gary Payton 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 Luke Walton - 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."

Wally Szczerbiak 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 quarter.

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 said.

"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 quarter.

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."