TARGET CENTER - MINNEAPOLIS. For the first time in six years,
the Lakers opened a playoff game without Rick Fox in uniform.
He will miss the rest of the postseason with a torn tendon in
his left foot that will require surgery. Fox was hurt early
in the first quarter of the Lakers' 102-97 Game 4 victory over
But Kobe Bryant scored 32 points, O'Neal added 27 and they got
great support from the role players, including 24 points from
Derek Fisher in a 120-90 demolition of the Timberwolves
that gave the Lakers a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference
The Lakers had their best shooting game of the series, going
45 for 83 (54 percent), after going three consecutive games
without breaking 40 percent from the field. On the other side
Minnesota had the worst shooting performance of the series,
going 36 for 84 (42.9 percent).
The Lakers also made 12-of-23 from 3-point range and held a
44-36 edge on the boards.
Kevin Garnett scored 25 points, but Troy Hudson finally returned
to Earth, scoring a series-low 14 points.
As the Lakers took control early, Fisher scored 9 points in
the first quarter, all on 3-pointers. O'Neal and Fisher had
16 points each by halftime.
The Timberwolves took their last lead at 40-39. But the Lakers
ended the half with a 19-8 run and put the game away by scoring
the first 7 points of the third quarter.
After a quiet first half, Bryant exploded in the third quarter.
With 7:23 left, he got going with a spectacular play, driving
past Garnett along the right baseline and coming up on the other
side of the rim for a reverse dunk that made it 73-55.
Bryant had 14 more points in the rest of the quarter as the
Lakers extended to a 94-73 bulge entering the final period.
The Wolves got no closer than 18 points thereafter.
Kobe Bryant regained some of his shooting touch, scoring his
32 points on 12-for-21 shooting.
Fisher, who had been outplayed by Minnesota guard Troy Hudson,
scored his 24 points on 8 of 10 attempts, including 5 of 7 3
Robert Horry, a clutch playoff performer who had not made a
3-pointer in the first four games, made two in a second-quarter
surge that gave the Lakers the lead for good.
The Lakers thoroughly outclassed the Timberwolves by playing
their 600th playoff game in search of their 15th championship,
while the Wolves were playing their 28th playoff game in search
of their first series win.
Minnesota coach Flip Saunders told his players to exploit Fox's
loss by getting at least 20 shots from Wally Szczerbiak. But
George replacing Fox, did a good job on Szczerbiak who finished
with 9 points on 3-of-7 shooting.
George played with confidence in his hometown and had one of
the best games of his playoff career: 12 points, eight rebounds
and six assists.
The Lakers scored 29 points off 17 Minnesota turnovers, while
committing only 7 turnovers themselves for 4 points.