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Bryant scores 14 of his 31 points in fourth quarter

5/2/2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Too much experience, too much Kobe, too much
Shaq.

The three-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are moving
on in the playoffs, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are going home
after the first round -- again.

Kobe Bryant scored 14 of his 31 points in the first six minutes
of the fourth quarter, and Shaquille O'Neal had 24 points, 17
rebounds and nine assists Thursday night as the Lakers beat the
Timberwolves 101-85.

"Shaq was dominant in the first half and in the second half,
Kobe was the dominant factor,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I
told the team Minnesota tested them and we have to improve.''

By winning the best-of-seven series 4-2, the Lakers advanced to
meet the San Antonio Spurs in the second round beginning Monday
night.

"Our next series is going to be very difficult and we know
it,'' Jackson said.

The Lakers eliminated the Spurs from the playoffs each of the
last two years, winning eight of nine games. But San Antonio swept
Los Angeles 4-0 this season en route to earning homecourt advantage
throughout these playoffs.

The Lakers have won 13 straight playoff series under Jackson,
and Jackson-coached teams have won an NBA record 25 consecutive
series.

The Timberwolves have never advanced in the playoffs, being
eliminated in the first round seven straight years after failing to qualify in their first seven seasons of existence.

"We put them away,'' O'Neal said. "Phil's motivation does very
well for us, so we wanted to come out and play hard and focused.''

The Timberwolves seemed in excellent shape when they held a 2-1
series lead and a 74-63 advantage late in the third quarter of Game
4. But the Lakers rallied for a 102-97 victory, prompting
Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett to say afterward: "We had them on the ropes, and they know it.''

The Lakers then overpowered the Timberwolves 120-90 in Game 5
and finished the job at home.

"Our defense is what stepped up in the last two games,''
Jackson said.

The supporting cast did its part, too. Derek Fisher scored 16
points, Devean George added 12 points and eight rebounds and Robert
Horry had 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

"It was their role players that beat us,'' Minnesota's Kendall
Gill said. "We had no idea Derek Fisher was going to show up the
way he did. Brian Shaw, Devean George, Robert Horry the last two
games.

"They can't complain about their role players.''

Garnett had 18 points and 12 rebounds and Troy Hudson also had
18 points for the Timberwolves. But Hudson scored only four after
the first quarter. Wally Szczerbiak added 14 points for Minnesota.

Bryant outscored the Timberwolves 10-2 by himself to start the
final period, shooting 5-of-5, and George added four points to make
it 83-65 with 8:19 remaining.

As the Staples Center crowd roared, the Timberwolves took a
timeout and quietly returned to their bench, knowing it was over.

When the teams returned to the court, the fans chanted, "MVP,
MVP, MVP'' at Bryant.

"I made a conscious decision to be more aggressive,'' Bryant
said about the fourth period. "We didn't close out the third
quarter very well. I felt like we had to re-establish the
momentum.''

Another basket by Bryant and two free throws by O'Neal made it
87-65 with 7:04 to play. The only suspense after that was whether
O'Neal would get a triple-double, which he didn't.

"I think we tested them a little bit,'' Garnett said. "They
took it to another level.''

Three-point shots by Bryant and Fisher capped an 18-4 run to
finish the second quarter and start the third, giving the Lakers a
57-45 lead.

The Timberwolves drew within eight before Horry made two baskets
and Bryant hit a 3-pointer to key a 10-2 spurt, making it 67-50.

But the Timberwolves refused to fold, outscoring the Lakers 13-2
to finish the third quarter to draw within six points.

That's when Bryant took over.

"Kobe was phenomenal,'' Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said
of Bryant's fourth-quarter effort. "We doubled him and couldn't
keep him from scoring. That took the wind out of our sails and we
had trouble scoring.

"As I said all along, the Lakers are the team to beat and I
don't think that's going to change.''

The Lakers led 47-43 at halftime, holding Minnesota to 13 points
in the second quarter when the Timberwolves shot 5-of-15.

O'Neal scored nine points in the first 2½ minutes, making four
shots without a miss and adding a free throw.

The Timberwolves outscored the Lakers 15-4 to finish the first
quarter for a 30-25 lead. Hudson scored seven points in the final
37½ seconds, giving him 14 in the period.

Game notes
O'Neal's nine assists matched his career playoff high. ...
Bryant had eight of his team's 34 assists. ... Jackson's playoff
record is 160-56, including 49-15 as coach of the Lakers. His 160
postseason wins are the most in NBA history -- five ahead of Pat
Riley -- and Jackson's playoff winning percentage of .741 is also a
record. ... Jackson has coached nine championship teams, tying him
with former Boston coach Red Auerbach for the NBA record. Auerbach
once coached the Celtics to 17 straight series victories --
second-most in league history behind Jackson's 25. ... The
Timberwolves' playoff record is 7-22. They won more than one game
in a playoff series for just the second time. Their previous six
series were best-of-five affairs.