MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Los Angeles Lakers snapped back to life,
Shaquille O'Neal exhibiting championship form.
height=90 align=right alt="Derek Fisher">
Bryant had 16 of his 32 points in the third quarter, O'Neal
added 27 points, Fisher had 24 and Horry 12 Tuesday night to put
the Minnesota Timberwolves on the brink of elimination with a
Los Angeles leads the series 3-2.
"Sense of urgency, really,'' Bryant said, explaining the
Lakers' breakout. "Crucial game.''
Game 6 is Thursday in Los Angeles, with Game 7 back in
Minneapolis on Saturday if necessary.
If the Lakers play this way again, however, it won't be
"It was Groundhog's Day, just like Game 1,'' Minnesota coach
Flip Saunders said, comparing it to the Lakers' 19-point blowout
victory in the series opener.
Stretching a 10-point halftime lead to 21 by the end of the
third quarter and to 30 late in the fourth, the three-time
defending champions rediscovered their shooting touch and their
"That's the team I recognize,'' coach Phil Jackson said.
"Moving the ball and limiting turnovers. We wanted to be sure we
struck first and were aggressive.''
Fisher had five 3-pointers, and the Lakers -- 12-for-23 from
beyond the arc -- shot 54 percent from the field. Horry, who missed
his first 11 attempts from 3-point range in this series, finally
made a pair to help the Lakers overcome the absence of starting
forward Rick Fox.
The blowout was a big disappointment for Kevin Garnett, the rest of the Timberwolves and their 20,098 fans.
The Target Center, sold out for the first time this series, was
roaring in the game's opening stages but nearly empty at the end.
Garnett had 25 points and 16 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who
are now one loss away from a seventh straight first-round exit.
"I felt badly for Flip,'' Jackson said. "He had the team in
position. I know what it's like to be in a situation like that
where you just can't find anything to click out there.''
The Lakers are tough to beat when they get more than just a
token contribution from players other than O'Neal or Bryant. On
this night, they got plenty from many.
"In the playoffs, our opponent's game plan has been to take
things away from Shaq and Kobe,'' Fisher said. "But when we
execute, shots open up for all of us.''
Fisher, who's had a streaky series, had all of his points in the
first three quarters and finished 8-for-10 from the floor.
"We told him to try to make Troy Hudson play defense against him,'' O'Neal said, "and he did that.''
With the Lakers starting to suck the life out the crowd, Bryant
He drove baseline past Garnett midway through the third, soared
above traffic, used the rim as a shield and threw down a marvelous
one-handed reverse dunk that stunned everyone who saw it and put
Los Angeles up 73-55.
"Just taking my time,'' Bryant said. "There was no sense of
urgency for me to really go into attack mode because my team was
doing so well. In the third quarter, I saw an opportunity to really
start being assertive.''
Horry, who scored a total of just 18 points in the first four
games, helped check a frustrated Garnett on defense.
As the Timberwolves took a timeout late in the third, Garnett --
fearing a substitution -- turned and screamed at the bench, "Don't
get me! Don't get me!''
Rasho Nesterovic had 13 points and Kendall Gill 10 for the
Timberwolves, who lost the defensive intensity they had in the
previous three games and committed 17 turnovers that the Lakers
turned into 29 points.
With Fox's postseason over because of a torn tendon in his left
foot suffered in Game 4, Minneapolis native Devean George had 12 points and eight rebounds starting at small forward.
George picked up where Fox left off defensively on Wally
Szczerbiak, who had twice as many turnovers (four) in the first
half as attempted shots.
Szczerbiak finished with a nine points on 3-for-7 shooting and
heard a few boos when he came out near the end of the game.
"They took it to us on both ends of the floor,'' Szczerbiak
With Horry also in the starting five, the Lakers -- who shot
below 40 percent in each of the past three games -- had more of an
Brian Shaw picked on Szczerbiak some too, stealing the ball from
him on a trap near midcourt and getting an easy layup on the other
end that gave Los Angeles a 35-26 lead early in the second.
Hudson, who scored 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting in the first
half, was again silent late.
He had back-to-back 3-pointers during a 14-4 Wolves run that
gave them a brief lead, 40-39 in the second quarter, but he was
scoreless in the second half after coming up empty in the fourth
quarter of Game 4.
This was Minnesota's first sellout in six playoff games.
The last came in 2000 in a series against Portland. ... O'Neal was
7-for-10 from the foul line. In three road games this series, he is
24-for-32 (75 percent) on free throws. At home, he's 16-for-31.
- Eddie F. Rush
- Mark Wunderlich
- Tim Donaghy