Los Angeles wins series 4-2 (Game 4 of 6)

Los Angeles wins series 4-2

Game 1: Sunday, April 20th
Game 2: Tuesday, April 22nd
Game 3: Thursday, April 24th
Game 4: Sunday, April 27th
Game 5: Tuesday, April 29th
Game 6: Thursday, May 1st

Lakers 102

(50-32, 31-10 home)

    12:00 PM ET, April 27, 2003

    STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

    1 2 3 4 T
    MIN 26 19 29 2397
    LAL 25 18 28 31102

    Top Performers

    Min: K. Garnett 28 Pts, 18 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

    LAL: S. O'Neal 34 Pts, 23 Reb, 6 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk

    Shaq once again responds to the challenge

    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal had a simple plan to keep the Lakers from being on the brink of elimination: Just get him the ball.

    "I told the guys before the game, get me the ball and move out of the way,'' he said. "I've just got to have the ball in a position where I can do something. As soon as I'm open, I would like to have it.''

    He got it -- from his teammates and off the boards -- and that was the difference Sunday as Los Angeles rallied for a 102-97 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves to even their first-round playoff series 2-2.

    O'Neal had 34 points, 23 rebounds and six assists for the three-time defending champions, who won by outscoring the Timberwolves 22-11 in the last seven minutes.

    Minnesota didn't make a field goal in a span of 5:18 while falling behind for good, and Kevin Garnett missed two free throws with 15 seconds remaining and a chance to pull the Timberwolves within one.

    "This was a game that we had to have,'' O'Neal said. "We did what we're supposed to do.''

    When asked why he didn't get the ball more often, O'Neal replied: "I don't have any ... idea. I would like to get the ball every ... time. I shouldn't have to say it.''

    Game 5 will be played Tuesday night at Target Center, where the teams split the first two games of the series. Game 6 is Thursday night at Staples Center.

    O'Neal grabbed 10 of the Lakers' 18 offensive rebounds to help them to a 29-2 advantage in second-chance points.

    Lakers coach Phil Jackson and teammate Kobe Bryant challenged O'Neal to be more physical, and the self-proclaimed MDE -- most dominant ever -- did just that.

    "Shaq was extremely aggressive -- he had by far his best game of the whole series,'' Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said.

    Regarding his dominance on the boards, O'Neal said: "I was just there, trying to get all the loose balls, trying to get the tips, trying to do my part.''

    He did his part, and more.

    Bryant added 32 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter, despite shooting 7-of-25. He was 16-of-17 from the foul line, making four free throws without a miss in the last 12.8 seconds to clinch the victory.

    "This is typical playoff basketball,'' Bryant said. "You just have to do whatever it takes to win the ballgame.''

    Garnett had 28 points, 18 rebounds and five assists, but his missed free throws were costly.

    "Total missed opportunity,'' Garnett said of the loss. "We had them on the ropes, too. They know it.''

    Troy Hudson also had 28 points, although he did not score in the fourth quarter, missing his only two shots.

    Baskets by Rod Strickland, Garnett and Anthony Peeler gave Minnesota an 80-74 lead, and it was 86-80 following Strickland's basket with 7:32 remaining.

    But the Lakers fought back, and a jumper by Devean George with 4:40 to play gave them an 88-87 lead -- their first since the second quarter.

    They were on top the rest of the way.

    George made a 3-pointer to make it 93-89, but Wally Szczerbiak's 3-pointer with 2:15 left made it a one-point game.

    Bryant made two free throws 20 seconds later, and neither team scored again until the Timberwolves fouled O'Neal on purpose with 50.8 seconds left.

    O'Neal, who stepped to the line having made 7-of-13, made one to give the Lakers a four-point lead.

    Garnett responded by making a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left to make it 96-95. Garnett appeared to shove George twice to get open for his shot.

    Bryant missed a driving shot, but O'Neal tipped it in with 19.1 seconds to play for a three-point lead -- setting up Garnett's two misses.

    "I messed up. I'll take them any time,'' Garnett said.

    Saunders said his team's 17 turnovers and the Lakers' dominance on the offensive boards were major factors in the outcome.

    "They beat us at the things we do well,'' he said. "We're not going to go away. It's down to a best-of-three series with two in our place.''

    Lakers coach Phil Jackson called it a survival game for his team.

    "We got second-chance points that were overwhelming,'' he said. "That's the difference in the ballgame.''

    The Timberwolves outscored the Lakers 17-7 for a 74-63 lead -- the largest of the game for either team.

    The Lakers then scored the last eight points of the third quarter, and a 3-pointer by Bryant early in the final period tied it at 74.

    The Timberwolves led at halftime 45-43 thanks to Hudson's 11 points in the last three minutes of the second quarter.

    Game notes

    Lakers F Rick Fox left the game with 6:37 left in the first quarter with a strained tendon in his left ankle and didn't return. A team spokesman said Fox would undergo an MRI early Monday before the team flies to Minnesota. ... O'Neal was called for a flagrant foul with 2:31 left in the third quarter for knocking Kendall Gill to the floor. ... O'Neal had 15 points and eight rebounds in the first eight minutes. ... Bryant picked up a technical foul in the first 4 minutes for arguing a non-call. ... The Timberwolves shot 50.6 percent in the first three games of the series to the Lakers' 43.1 percent. Minnesota shot 43.4 percent and Los Angeles shot 39.8 percent Sunday. ... Seldom-used Lakers G Brian Shaw had 10 points and six rebounds in 27 minutes. He had four points and two rebounds in the first three games.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 97 102
    FGM-FGA 36-83 (.434) 35-88 (.398)
    3PM-3PA 9-27 (.333) 6-20 (.300)
    FTM-FTA 16-20 (.800) 26-35 (.743)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 8-43 18-49
    Assists 18 20
    Turnovers 17 10
    Steals 5 9
    Blocks 2 4
    Fast Break Points 2 3
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 29 (1/0) 25 (1/1)

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles
    Kevin Garnett Garnett
    Points: 28
    Reb: 18
    Ast: 5
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 1
    Shaquille O'Neal O'Neal
    Points: 34
    Reb: 23
    Ast: 6
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 2