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NBA Playoffs 2004, Western Conference Finals - Lakers vs. TimberWolves

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NBA Playoffs 2004 Western Conference Finals
Los Angeles Lakers 4 vs. Minnesota TimberWolves 2

Game 1: Lakers 97 - TimberWolves 88 at Min Game recap & pictures
Game 2: TimberWolves 89 - Lakers 71 at Min Game recap & pictures
Game 3: Lakers 100 - TimberWolves 89 at LA Game recap & pictures
Game 4: Lakers 92 - TimberWolves 85 at LA Game recap & pictures
Game 5: TimberWolves 98 - Lakers 96 at Min Game recap & pictures
Game 6: Lakers 96 - TimberWolves 90 at LA Game recap & pictures

Back to Playoffs 2004

GAME 1:  Lakers 97 - Timberwolves 88

Derek Fisher again

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 27: O'Neal 18: O'Neal 6: Bryant
Wolves 23: Sprewell 11:Olowokandi 8:Cassell
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 23 23 32 19 97
Min 21 20 21 26 88
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Shaquille O'Neal, Mark Madsen)
click for pictures
TARGET CENTER - MINNESOTA. The Lakers imposed their rhythm an won game one of the Western Conference Finals 97-88 almost with the automatic pilot on.
The TimberWolves found no answer for Shaquille O'Neal, who had 27 points 18 rebounds 5 assists and 4 blocked shots. Shaq felt so comfortable that he even made 9 of 11 free throws.
Phil Jackson clearly draw his defense to stop Minnesota's most dangerous weapon Kevin Garnett who was double-teamed by Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant every time he touched the ball. The 41-year-old veteran Malone, who did a remarkable job on Tim Duncan in the conference semifinals, had a complete game and clearly won his matchup with the MVP Garnett. Malone outscored him 17-16, outrebounded him 11-10 and added 4 assists.
Bryant, in addition to his excellent defense and the spectacular plays he always offer, contributed with 23 points and 6 assists.
Latrell Sprewell, who leaded the Wolves with 23 points, got hot in the third quarter and with his 11 points helped Minnesota to tie the game 67-67 with 3:01 remaining in the period. But it was Derek Fisher's time again. He made consecutive 3-pointers that were followed by a 3-pointer from Kareem Rush. Another jumper by Fisher ended the 11-0 run that closed the quarter 78-67.
In the fourth the Wolves cut the deficit to 92-88 but again Fisher came up big for the Lakers with a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left in the game to sentence the victory.
Sam Cassell couldn't play the final 13 minutes after his troublesome back sent him to the bench with his 16 points and 8 assists.

The Quotes

Karl Malone (LA): "He's got one MVP (trophy). I've got two."
Rick Fox (LA): It seems to be Derek Fisher's playoffs this year for us. They seemed to leave Derek open, and the ball found him and he made shots"
Trenton Hassell (Min): "Derek Fisher has proven that he can hit those shots, we weren't quick enough in our rotation, and he got wide-open looks"

Highlights

Shaquille O'Neal: 27 pts 18 reb 5 ast 4 bl
Kobe Bryant: 23 pts 6 ast 3 st
Karl Malone: 17 pts 11 reb 4 ast 3 st
Derek Fisher: 14 pts 6 ast
Gary Payton: 7 pts 5 ast
Latrell Sprewell (Min): 23 pts 6 reb 5 ast
Kevin Garnett (Min): 16 pts 10 reb
Sam Cassell (Min): 16 pts 8 ast
Olowokandi (Min): 10 pts 11 reb

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GAME 2:  TimberWolves 89 - Lakers 71

Now it looks like a playoff series

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 27: Bryant 16: O'Neal 6: Bryant
Wolves 24: Garnett 11: Garnett 8: Sprewell
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 24 13 19 15 71
Min 32 19 17 21 89
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Gary Payton, Wally Szczerbiak)
click for pictures
TARGET CENTER - MINNESOTA. Kobe Bryant scored 27 points, took 5 rebounds and gave 6 assists, but it was a bad game for Shaq, Malone, Payton and the rest of the Lakers.
Minnesota played with all the intensity they couldn't bring to game 1 and won 89-71 to keep their chances alive.
The Lakers faced this game with the same attitude they used with good results in game 1, playing friendly, avoiding body contact, like a regular season game. But it didn't work this time because the Wolves were decided to play hard, sometimes with the indulgence of the referees.
The Timberwolves controlled the score from the beginning despite losing Sam Cassell in the first minute of the game because of his sore back. With the unexpected 9 points from Wally Szczerbiak Minnesota took the lead 32-24 and the Lakers soon realized the way the game was going to be, Kobe Bryant doing everything without help from his teammates. He scored 14 of the Lakers 24 in the period and 25 of the Lakers' first 46.
Los Angeles climbed within 63-56 with 1:04 remaining in the third quarter, but Minnesota scored the final 5 points of that period and were always ahead by at least 11 points until the end of the game.
The Wolves evened the series with a great group effort. MVP Kevin Garnett had 24 points and 11 rebounds, Latrell Sprewell 17 points and 8 assists, Szczerbiak 16 points and 7 assists and Darrick Martin, replacing Cassell, 15 points and 6 assists.
For the Lakers, Shaquille O'Neal had 14 points and 16 rebounds but he missed an unusual 6 of 10 from the floor, and made an usual 6 of 14 from the free-throw line. Malone and Gary Payton got in early foul trouble and combined for only 13 points.
When Los Angeles tried to adjust to the hard game to reduce the deficit in the final period, four Lakers and three Timberwolves received technical fouls, Karl Malone was ejected after being charged with a flagrant foul with 2:31 remaining and suddenly what looked like friendly matches became a Conference Finals played with playoff intensity.
The 71 points matched the franchise low for points in a playoff game since it moved to Los Angeles.

The Quotes

Karl Malone (LA): "It seems like when I handle things, the team handles things, I didn't do it tonight and it probably spread throughout the team ... Maybe I was a little testy"
Kobe Bryant (LA): "We weren't desperate. They were, they played harder. We didn't match their intensity."
Shaquille O'Neal (LA): "That's more to our favor, playing like that, that's something we're used to and a style we like to play ... They want to play football, we'll play football"
Flip Saunders (Min Coach): I think it's only the beginning. When you play a team two times in three days, you start to not like each other."
Sam Cassell (Min): "I'll be on the court (in game 3) more than 43 seconds, I promise."

Highlights

Kobe Bryant: 27 pts 5 reb 6 ast
Shaquille O'Neal: 14 pts 16 reb
Gary Payton: 8 pts 6 reb
Karl Malone: 5 pts 9 reb ejected
K. Garnett (Min): 24 pts 11 reb
L. Sprewell (Min): 17 pts 8 ast
W. Szczerbiak (Min): 16 pts 5 reb 7 ast
D. Martin (Min): 15 pts 6 ast

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GAME 3:  Lakers 100 - TimberWolves 89

Kobe woke up to close the game.

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 22: Bryant 17: O'Neal 9: Payton
Wolves 22: Garnett 11: Garnett 7: Garnett
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 24 20 26 30 100
Min 17 18 30 24 89
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Wally Szczerbiak, Kobe Bryant)
click for pictures
STAPLES CENTER - LOS ANGELES. Everybody contributed to the Lakers victory 100-89 in the third game of the series.
For the first time in the playoffs the Lakers got double-figure scoring from all 5 of their starters who made a good ball movement to have 29 assists and shoot 51.5 percent.
Gary Payton had 9 assists and gave the Lakers the first impulse by scoring 14 of his 18 points in the opening quarter. The Lakers held a 44-35 halftime lead.
Shaq had 22 points and 17 rebounds, 7 of them offensive and had to go through another ridiculous Hack-a-Shaq in the second half.
Malone continued the extraordinary job he is doing to make things difficult for Kevin Garnett. The league MVP had 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, but he had to suffer to get them, went 16 1/2 minutes without a field goal in the second half and eventually fouled out.
After missing his only 2 attempts and going scoreless through the first half, Kobe Bryant woke up and scored 22 in the second.
Even George was active scoring 12 points that included a couple of important 3-pointers.
Sam Cassell had 18 points in 26 minutes, but played just 1 minute in the fourth period because of his back and hip problems.
O'Neal could not be contained by a quartet of big men who were instructed by Minnesota coach Flip Saunders to intentionally foul Shaq every time he touched the ball. The result: Ervin Johnson, Michael Olowokandi, Mark Madsen and Oliver Miller combined for 2 points, 8 rebounds and 16 fouls. Though O'Neal had his usual problems at the free throw line (he was 8-for-22 overall), the tactic only contributed to slow down the game and prevent Minnesota from running the fastbreak, one of its most effective ways of scoring.
The Lakers shot 40 free throws in the second half, and 26 in the fourth quarter
Wally Szczerbiak scored 21 points coming from the bench, 19 in the second half, including 14 in a row to get Minnesota within 66-64 late in the third quarter. But Bryant sank a pair of jumpers to help the Lakers take a 70-65 lead into the fourth.
Later, back-to-back 3-pointers by Bryant pushed the lead to 17 points, 91-74 with 4:46 left before the Wolves came charging back for the last time.
With one 3-pointer from Garnett and two from Sprewell, the Wolves pulled within 8 points with 2:57 to go, but from there, Saunders ordered the Hack-a-Shaq, the Wolves started to foul O'neal without the ball and Shaq ruined the strategy by making 2-of-4 from the line.
Then a strange thing happened, Mark Madsen clearly hugged Shaq trying to get the foul but the officials refused to give it. Even Shaq wanted the foul and couldn't believe it wasn't whistled. Nobody could believe it and it was the subject of conversation until the end of game.
Shaq passed Michael Jordan atop the career list for playoff free throws attempted with with 1,768.

The Quotes

Phil Jackson (LA Coach): "Three foul shots in the first half, it seemed like it was going to be cleanly played, everything was going along smoothly. The second half I think we spent a couple of hours at the free-throw line."
Kobe Bryant (LA): "I was sabotaging the game, man. Come on," he joked about his scoreless first half, "They were just crowding me and trapping me every time I came off pick-and-rolls or I was in transition. And we were playing so well as a team, everybody was contributing, we had a nice lead, there's really no reason for me to try to push through it or force shots or whatever."
Flip Saunders (Min Coach): "We'll foul Shaq 50 times, if that's what it takes."
Shaquille O'Neal (LA)"My percentage isn't pretty, but I'm not going to miss them all. That hasn't worked at all this millennium, and it's not going to work."

Highlights

Shaquille O'Neal: 22 pts 17 reb 4 ast 4 bl
Kobe Bryant: 22 pts 6 ast
Gary Payton: 18 pts 5 reb 9 ast
Karl Malone: 11 pts 6 reb 5 ast
Devean George: 12 pts
Derek Fisher: 6 pts 6 reb 3 st
Kevin Garnett (Min): 22 pts 11 reb 7 ast
Wally Szczerbiak (Min): 21 pts 7 reb
S. Cassell (Min): 18 pts
L. Sprewell (Min): 18 pts 4 st

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GAME 4:  Lakers 92 - TimberWolves 85

Now Minnesota can see reality more clearly.

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 31: Bryant 19: O'Neal 8: Malone
Wolves 28: Garnett 13: Garnett 9: Garnett
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 23 22 30 17 92
Min 24 16 20 25 85
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Karl Malone, Kevin Garnett)
click for pictures
STAPLES CENTER - LOS ANGELES. The Lakers took a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals with a 92-85 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves and even though they need one more victory to go the NBA Finals for the fourth time in 5 years, the Minnesota dream is already over.
Just in case the Wolves thought they still had a chance, Kobe Bryant reminded everybody they don't by scoring 16 points in the last 6:12 of the third quarter to expand the Lakers 2-point lead to 15. The run included an spectacular reverse layup after which he shook his head like saying "no, you can't stop me". It wasn't necessary, the Wolves already knew it.
To add problems to the Wolves nightmare, Shaq says that he doesn't get the ball as he used to so when he takes 19 rebounds and throw bodies around he is just doing "the little things", and Malone almost got a triple double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists.
Garnett also missed a triple double with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists for the TimberWolves and Wally Szczerbiak added 19 points. But it wasn't enough.
The Wolves led most of the first half, but the Lakers outscored them 15-5 to close the second quarter with a 45-40 lead. Derek Fisher scored 6 of his 15 points during the spurt.
In the third quarter Minnesota reduced the deficit to 56-54 with 6:12 to go, but it was also the moment when Kobe Bryant's show started. He ended the quarter with 18 points.
Point guard Sam Cassell played only 5 minutes due to his back spasms.
It was the 3rd. courtroom-to-court game of the playoffs and 5th overall for Bryant. The Lakers won all five games, and Kobe was brilliant every time averaging 35 points.
Now the Wolves need to win three consecutive games, but here you have a stat that wouldn't cheer them up: teams coached by Phil Jackson are 43-0 in series when they've led and 9-0 in conference finals.

The Quotes

Kobe Bryant (LA): "I just read it and pace it out. Collapse the defense in the first half by swinging it around and moving the ball. In the second half, when I sense some momentum and I feel like it's time to go in for the kill, that's when I do it."
Flip Saunders (Min Coach): "Right now we're down to playing a one-game series. Our main focus is to go home and find a way to keep extending it."
Shaquille O'Neal (LA): "They (opponents) are going to get tired before I do. When I was born, the doctor dropped me on my head. I'm used to roughness." ... "We have a lot of guys on this team that demand shots, so I don't get the 20-25 shots I used to get. I block shots, get some rebounds. Just try to do the little things"

Highlights

Kobe Bryant: 31 pts 8 reb 4 ast
Shaquille O'Neal: 19 pts 19 reb 3 bl
Karl Malone: 12 pts 11 reb 8 ast
Gary Payton: 6 pts 6 ast
D. Fisher: 15 pts 3 ast
K. Garnett (Min): 28 pts 13 reb 9 ast
W. Szczerbiak (Min): 19 pts 5 reb
L. Sprewell: 12 pts 5 reb 4 ast

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GAME 5:  TimberWolves 98 - Lakers 96

Kevin Garnett played like an MVP

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 23: Bryant 13: O'Neal 7: Bryant
Wolves 30: Garnett 19: Garnett 5: Sprewell
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 21 19 23 33 96
Min 14 32 27 25 98
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Phil Jackson)
click for pictures
TARGET CENTER - MINNESOTA. Minnesota avoided elimination with a victory 98-96 Saturday night at Target Center.
In reality, the game wasn't as close as the score might suggest. The Lakers reduced a 16 point deficit in the fourth quarter but never had the ball with a chance to tie and the final difference was only 2 points because Fisher scored on a 26-foot 3-pointer at the horn.
Kevin Garnett had his best game of the series with 30 points, 19 rebounds, 4 assists. The League MVP played great defense and this time could not be contained by Karl Malone.
With guard Sam Cassell sidelined by a back injury, Latrell Sprewell added 28 points and Fred Hoiberg 14 for the TimberWolves.
The Lakers started strong, had a 10-point lead (20-10) late in the first period and a 7-point lead (40-33) with 3:33 left in the second.
But Minnesota closed out the first half with 13 consecutive points, and slowly extended the lead to 16 points by the middle of the fourth quarter.
Kobe Bryant couldn't resolve the problem presented by the double-teams the Wolves applied to him, but tried to save the night for the Lakers and pushed them to a 10 point run that reduced the deficit to 6 points with 3:20 to play, but it was too late.
Kobe scored 23 points, O'Neal, Malone and Fisher added 17 apiece for the Lakers. Gary Payton had another low scoring game with 8 points and Devean George scored 4 points on 9 attempts and was benched most of the game.
The Lakers now have the chance to end the series at home.

The Quotes

Kobe Bryant (LA): "We wanted to finish the series. It wasn't for a lack of effort. That would be an injustice to Minnesota. They played extremely hard"
Flip Saunders (Min Coach): "The biggest thing is that our guys showed a lot of heart. I don't think there's anybody that expected us to win, except maybe the guys that were in that locker room"
Karl Malone (LA): "Not a good day, not a good day"
Kevin Garnett (Min): "We don't consider this thing over. We know we're a good team. We're confident we can win. ... The biggest question in our minds is, 'How do we carry this over to L.A.?' "

Highlights

Kobe Bryant: 23 pts 6 reb 7 ast
Shaquille O'Neal: 17 pts 13 reb 3 ast 4 bl
Karl Malone: 17 pts 9 reb 3 ast
Derek Fisher: 17 pts 4 reb 4 ast
Gary Payton: 8 pts 6 ast
K. Garnett (Min): 30 pts 19 reb 4 ast
L. Sprewell (Min): 28 pts 4 reb 5 ast
F. Hoiberg (Min): 14 pts
Wally Szczerbiak
(Min): 11 pts

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GAME 6:  Lakers 96 - TimberWolves 90

More than four stars.

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 25: O'Neal 11: O'Neal 8: Payton
Wolves 27: Sprewell 17: Garnett 5: Sprewell
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 28 20 19 29 96
Min 17 29 22 22 90
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Bryant, Fox, O'Neal)
click for pictures
STAPLES CENTER - LOS ANGELES. Kareem Rush made six 3-pointers, including 3 in the fourth quarter to help the Lakers defeat the Wolves 96-90 in game 6, win the Western Conference and go to the NBA Finals for the fourth time in five years.
It will be the 10th time in the finals for Jackson who will have the chance to become the coach with most championships.
Shaquille O'Neal had 25 points and 11 rebounds and Kobe Bryant scored 20. Gary Payton controlled the ball and gave 8 assists and Karl Malone had 10 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and played aggressive defense on Kevin Garnett, who had 22 points and 17 rebounds but needed 20 attempts to get his points, was forced to commit 8 turnovers and fouled out late when the officials decided to finally start whistling his fouls.
But the story of the game was Rush. He had attempted only 16 shots in the first 5 games of the series and was shooting 25%, including only three 3-pointers and 11 points. In this game he made his first six shots from behind the arc.
The officiating had a bad day giving some incredible fouls and applying that strange NBA habit that tries to show the MVP is always right. The first half ended with 34 fouls called, 40 free throws shot, Shaquille O'Neal limited for the rest of the game with four fouls and Bryant with three.
After sitting on the bench for the entire third quarter while the TimberWolves led most of the time, Rush buried a 3-pointer 84 seconds into the final quarter to put Los Angeles ahead 69-68, then made another to extend the lead to 6 points with 6:50 to play. His final 3-pointer with 3:22 remaining gave the Lakers a 10-point lead and ended the season for the Timberwolves, who had finished the regular season with the best record in the West and advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the first time.
Medvedenko and Fisher also contributed with their defense and some key shots, specially in the fourth period. The Lakers were 17 for 36 from the line in the game. Shaq was 7 for 20 and the Timberwolves were 24 for 26.
Latrell Sprewell scored 27 points but Minnesota couldn't score enough to overcome the absence of injured Sam Cassell.
The Finals start Sunday in Los Angeles if the Eastern Conference winner is Detroit or in Indianapolis if the winner is Indiana.

The Quotes

Kevin Garnett (Min): "I got a taste of the Western Conference finals. ... We've just got to use this as experience and add a couple of pieces and go from there"
Latrell Sprewell (Min): "It's an empty feeling when you go home a loser. Whether you lose in the Finals, the conference finals, the first round ... it doesn't matter"
Kareem Rush: (LAL): "I just have to stay ready. I know I didn't get a lot of playing time in this series. After I made my first shot, I knew it was going to be a good night"

Highlights

Shaquille O'Neal: 25 pts 11 reb
Kobe Bryant: 20 pts 4 ast
Karl Malone: 10 pts 10 reb 7 ast
Kareem Rush: 18 pts (6 3-pt) 3 ast
Gary Payton: 7 pts 8 ast
K. Garnett (Min): 22 pts 17 reb 8 turnover
L. Sprewell (Min): 27 pts 4 reb 5 ast
W. Szczerbiak (Min): 13 pts 5 reb
T. Hassell (Min): 11 pts

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