Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 12/1

Game 1: Sunday, December 1st
Game 2: Tuesday, December 17th
Game 3: Friday, March 7th
Game 4: Friday, March 14th

Lakers 106

(34-26, 23-10 home)

    Coverage: FSW

    7:30 PM ET, March 7, 2003

    STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

    1 2 3 4 T
    MIN 22 21 30 2396
    LAL 29 24 25 28106

    Top Performers

    Min: R. Nesterovic 19 Pts, 7 Reb, 3 Blk

    LAL: S. O'Neal 40 Pts, 14 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 5 Blk

    Shaq scores 40, Bryant chips in with 30

    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal, freshly turned 31, played the game with kid-like energy and glee.

     Shaquille O'Neal

     Kobe Bryant

    The Los Angeles Lakers' center had 40 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks, four assists and was quick up and down the court Friday night in a 106-96 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    "He looked good. His movement was good and he played with energy," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Maybe it had something to do with having a birthday. Who knows?"

    O'Neal, who turned 31 Thursday, said he's finally returning to form. He had toe surgery in September, didn't play until late November, and now seems to be peaking as the three-time defending NBA champions head down the stretch of the regular season.

    "I'm getting there. I'm pretty close. I think we have 20 something games to get it right, but when the playoffs come, it is a different attitude, a different mentality, a different focus," O'Neal said.

    "When it's time to be there, I'll be there, and everybody knows that."

    Kobe Bryant, who scored 30, said, "He's feeling good and we're going to continue to go to him. It felt good to see how light he was on his toes. I haven't seen him this agile in a while. I think we're all reassured by that."

    The Lakers, who struggled earlier in the season, won for the eighth time in nine games. The victory was only their second in their last six games against the Kevin Garnett-led Timberwolves.

    Garnett, guarded mostly by Mark Madsen, was held to 15 points on 6-of-17 shooting in the loss -- Minnesota's third in a row to start a five-game West Coast trip.

    "The difference tonight was that Shaq played incredibly aggressively for 48 minutes," Garnett said. "We didn't necessarily rotate to Shaq like we were supposed to do and he made us pay for it."

    Late in the second quarter, O'Neal blocked Wally Szczerbiak's shot, tossed the ball to Derek Fisher to start a fast break, then hustled down the court, got the rebound when Bryant missed a short jumper, and put the ball into the hoop.

    In the third quarter, the Lakers' 7-foot-2, 340-pound center dribbled the length of the court on a fast break, but ran over Rasho Nesterovic in the lane and drew a charging foul.

    In the fourth quarter, O'Neal put a spin move on Nesterovic, laid the ball gently into the hoop and seemed almost to prance as he ran back upcourt.

    "Shaq was just in his flow," said Nesterovic, who led Minnesota with 19 points.

    Garnett and the Lakers' Robert Horry were called for double technicals with 1:49 remaining after Szczerbiak and Fisher collided. Fisher and Szczerbiak were called for a double foul.

    Troy Hudson hit a running 59-footer at the buzzer to end the third quarter and pull the Timberwolves within 78-73. But Minnesota got no closer than five points the rest of the way.

    The Timberwolves had beaten the Lakers 96-80 in Minnesota on Dec. 17.

    Game notes
    The Lakers placed F Tracy Murray on the injured list earlier in the day after he sprained his right ankle during the team's morning practice. Rookie G Jannero Pargo was activated to fill the roster spot. ... Garnett was coming off a 27-point, 24-rebound effort in Minnesota's 96-95 overtime loss at Sacramento on Wednesday. ... Even with the loss, the Timberwolves have won 19 of their last 25.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 96 106
    FGM-FGA 38-75 (.507) 43-94 (.457)
    3PM-3PA 5-10 (.500) 3-8 (.375)
    FTM-FTA 15-22 (.682) 17-26 (.654)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 8-43 16-45
    Assists 22 23
    Turnovers 15 5
    Steals 3 9
    Blocks 6 5
    Fast Break Points 1 5
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 28 (2/0) 21 (3/0)

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles
    Rasho Nesterovic Nesterovic
    Points: 19
    Reb: 7
    Ast: 0
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 3
    Shaquille O'Neal O'Neal
    Points: 40
    Reb: 14
    Ast: 4
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 5