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Lakers rest starters in cruising to 15-1

12/2/2001

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal has learned that he doesn't
have to score a bunch of points every game for the Los Angeles
Lakers to win.

"They choose to double- and triple-team me, and I'm just
looking for my guys," O'Neal said.

On Saturday night, O'Neal had 23 points, nine rebounds and five
assists as the Lakers ran their record to 15-1 with a 102-76
victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"Sitting there in the locker room last night (in Seattle), I
kind of realized this is a good team without me."

O'Neal, who was ejected in the first quarter of Los Angeles'
107-92 victory over the SuperSonics a night earlier, played 32
minutes against Minnesota as the steamrolling Lakers posted their
best mark through 16 games in franchise history.

The two-time defending NBA champions also have won 38 of their
last 40 games going back to last season, when they finished the
regular season with an eight-game win streak, then lost just once
on the way to the league crown.

Kobe Bryant added 18 points and had five assists 27 minutes for
the Lakers against Minnesota, with Los Angeles taking control with
a 21-6 burst in the third quarter.

"We just came out in the third quarter and made a big push,"
said Lindsey Hunter, who made three 3-pointers and scored 11 points
in the period to lead the Lakers' surge. "Anytime you got the big
fellow down low, we want him to draw as much attention as possible
so we can knock shots down."

Los Angeles broke away from a 53-all tie to open a 74-59 lead
with 1:34 left in the third.

The Lakers outscored Minnesota 31-16 in the quarter and led
77-62 beginning the fourth. The Timberwolves were through.

The Timberwolves (10-5), who started the season 9-1, lost their
third straight and fourth in their last five.

Kevin Garnett went 5-of-18 from the field and scored 11 points,
about half his average 0 -- although he did have 14 rebounds. He did
not go to the free throw line for the second consecutive game.

"It's early in the season and we came out of the box pretty
fast," Garnett said. "We're a really good team, and we believe
that. We'll have stretches like this; it's part of an 82-game
season.

"We're just struggling right now and have to keep our heads
up."

Wally Szczerbiak led the Timberwolves with 19 points.

Los Angeles reserve Devean George had 12 points, and Fisher,
also coming off the bench, added nine. Hunter finished with 13
points.

The Timberwolves shot just 37 percent from the floor, while the
Lakers weren't much better, shooting 42 percent.

Fisher's 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left in the first half
pulled Los Angeles into a 46-all tie. The teams were neck-and-neck
through the first two quarters, with no more than four points
separating them.

Game notes
The 1969-70 New York Knicks went 23-1, the best start for a
team with one loss. They finished that season by beating the Lakers
in the Finals. ... The Lakers will make a belated trip to the White
House, on Jan. 7, to be honored for the first time for their two
NBA titles. The ceremonies were postponed earlier because of
scheduling difficulties. "I'm looking forward to it and I'm sure
everybody else is," Bryant said. "Everything's in a highly
emotional state in the country, so it's going to be exciting to go
there." ... O'Neal on his anticipated NBA fine for yelling at
referee Bob Delaney and drawing two technicals and the ejection in
Seattle: "Hopefully it will go to the police and firemen relief
fund." ... The Timberwolves, 4-4 on the road, were tied with the
Lakers for the NBA's best record after 10 games, when each had one
loss.