MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Kevin Garnett was criticized in the playoffs
last year for not being selfish enough down the stretch. On Tuesday
night, he showed he can indeed take over a game in the fourth
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Garnett had 35 points and 20 rebounds, and he made four of his
five field-goal attempts in the final period as the Minnesota
Timberwolves defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 119-91 to even their
first-round series at one game each.
"He just stepped up and played big,'' teammate Wally Szczerbiak
said. "He's been doing that all year for us, and that's why I
think he should be the MVP of the league.''
Troy Hudson added 37 points for Minnesota, which was eliminated
in the first round the past six seasons.
Game 3 is Thursday night in Los Angeles, where the Wolves are
3-24 all-time against the Lakers.
"I don't think they can play any better than that,'' Los
Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "They played a desperate game.''
A somber Shaquille O'Neal, who spent a day and a half in South
Carolina for his grandfather's funeral, showed up about 90 minutes
before tipoff and wasn't much of a factor, despite 27 points and 14
Kobe Bryant, the other half of the Lakers' dominant duo, had 27
points on 9-of-28 shooting -- far below his sensational 39-point
performance in Sunday's opener. The Lakers won that game 117-98 to
swipe home-court advantage from the Timberwolves.
O'Neal wasn't around in the locker room afterward to comment,
but Bryant spoke for him and said the big man wasn't distracted.
"It didn't seem like his trip had any effect,'' Bryant said.
Hudson's 37 points set a franchise record for a playoff game. He
averaged only 14.2 points during the regular season, and his best
effort was 31.
"I was just staying aggressive, like the coaches told me to,''
The Lakers had their most lopsided postseason loss since 2000,
when the Indiana Pacers beat them 120-87 in Game 5 of the NBA
Minnesota, which had never won a postseason game by more than
nine points, led by as many as 24 in the third quarter but let the
Lakers creep back into it in the fourth. Los Angeles got to 96-83
on a free throw by O'Neal, but Garnett made two jumpers, sandwiched
around two free throws by Hudson to push the lead back to 19.
Garnett's last basket -- a jumper from 12 feet -- elicited a
thunderous chant of "MVP'' from the crowd.
His teammates were only 4-for-16 from the field in the final
period, and all the baskets came in garbage time.
Szczerbiak had 21 points, and Marc Jackson had 12 off the bench
for the Timberwolves, who shot 55.6 percent from the field.
Minnesota shot 50 percent in Game 1 and still lost by 19, which
made Tuesday night's result all the more surprising.
"It was nice to see your shots falling and see you're in the
lead,'' Szczerbiak said.
Defense was the reason for that. The Wolves played much tougher
on-the-ball defense, denied the passing lanes and held the Lakers to 36.3 shooting.
"Just got after it, man,'' Garnett said. "We have a lot of
confidence in ourselves on both ends. We just pressured up.''
Bryant was fouled hard on his right shoulder by Garnett on his
first shot of the second half, and he grimaced as he made his way
to the foul line.
He wore a pained look on his face for most of the game, in fact,
but mostly out of frustration. Anthony Peeler played tight defense
and helped limit him to 1-for-8 shooting in the third quarter as
Minnesota put the game away.
"We came out ready to play,'' Bryant said. "They just played
better than we did.''
After trailing for all of Game 1, the Timberwolves emerged with
an abundance of energy and quickly scored the first eight points to
get the fans on their feet.
Coach Flip Saunders started Peeler in place of Joe Smith, who
didn't even play. Peeler and Hudson effectively pushed the ball up
the floor and ran a solid transition game.
With Smith starting in Game 1, Szczerbiak played shooting guard
and was too busy trying to chase Bryant on the defensive end to
find a rhythm on offense. But the small lineup worked well.
The Wolves matched the Lakers' seven 3-pointers after being
outscored 30-3 from beyond the arc Sunday.
They took a 57-43 halftime lead when Hudson hit a 3-pointer at
the horn as he was falling backward toward the sideline. Hudson
sprang to his feet and gave Garnett and Szczerbiak a hard slap of
the hand as they jogged off the court.
Minnesota broke it open in the third period with an 11-0 run, on
3-pointers by Garnett, Peeler and Hudson, to go ahead 70-47.
"They played with desire to stay in the series,'' said Lakers
forward Rick Fox, later repeating the words of his coach. "They
played with desperation.''
Paid attendance was 17,132, up 35 from Sunday but still
nearly 2,000 less than capacity. ... The Timberwolves used their
small lineup 28 times during the regular season and went 18-10. ...
The Lakers lost for only the second time in 30 Game 2s after
winning a Game 1.
- Jack Nies
- Scott Foster
- Tom Washington