Lakers flash championship form in throttling Minnesota

Posted: Wednesday, April 30, 2003

MINNEAPOLIS The Los Angeles Lakers snapped back to life, with everyone from Kobe Bryant to Derek Fisher to Robert Horry to Shaquille O'Neal exhibiting championship form.

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 120-90 victory.

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 necessary.

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 offensive flow.

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.''

Jason Kidd added 19 points, six rebounds and five assists and Kerry Kittles had 15 points for the defending Eastern Conference champions. The Nets can clinch the best-of-seven series by winning Thursday in Milwaukee or in New Jersey on Saturday if the Bucks force a deciding game.

Toni Kukoc had 18 points and Sam Cassell and Gary Payton added 16 apiece for Milwaukee.

The Suns, who erased big leads in both of their victories, made the second half worth watching.

They opened the third quarter with a 19-5 run that trimmed San Antonio's advantage to 59-49, but the Spurs put together a string of baskets to restore their lead to 19 by the end of the quarter.

Phoenix charged again in the fourth period, pulling within six, 85-79, with 1:49 to play on a drive by Stephon Marbury. But the Spurs hit their foul shots down the stretch to secure the win.

Malik Rose led the Spurs with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Tim Duncan added 23 points and 17 rebounds.

Shawn Marion led the Suns with 22 points.

The Pacers scored all five points in overtime. Boston still leads 3-2 and returns home for Game 6 on Thursday. Only six teams have come back from 3-1 deficits, only two since 1981.

Ron Artest finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds, making the go-ahead free throw in overtime after blocking Paul Pierce's shot at the end of regulation, and Jermaine O'Neal had 19 points and 22 rebounds.

Antoine Walker led the Celtics with 21 points.

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