Friday , May , 28 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Kobe’s double-duty day ends in another Laker win

=== Kobe’s double-duty day ends in another Laker win ===

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – Kobe Bryant continued his second-half
heroics, scoring 22 of his 31 points in the final 24 minutes to lead the Los
Angeles Lakers to a 92-85 win over Minnesota in Game 4 of the Western
Conference finals at the Staples Center.

Bryant also had 22 second-half points in Game 3, as the Lakers won both games
in Los Angeles to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Shaquille O’Neal added 19 points and 19 rebounds for the Lakers, who have won
all eight home tilts this postseason.

Kevin Garnett led the way with 28 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists for
Minnesota, which will try to get back into this series Saturday at home in
Game 5. However, it will be tough as the Lakers have won 11 straight close-out
games.

Bryant, who was in Eagle, Colorado earlier in the day for a pre-trial hearing
in his sexual assault case, arrived just over an hour prior to game time.

“I just go day by day. Whatever I have to do I’ll do. No matter what it is,
whatever it takes,” said Bryant on his day.

It took him a while to get heated up, but when he did it was nearly impossible
for the Timberwolves to stop him.

Bryant ruled the third quarter, scoring 18 points. After scoring just nine
points in the opening half, he shot 6-of-10 from the floor and 5-of-6 at the
line, as the Lakers extended their lead to as many as 15 points.

His two free throws with 6:11 left started the scoring onslaught and extended
his club’s lead to 58-54. He went on to score 11 straight for the Lakers,
capping it with two free throws at the 3:17 mark for a 67-58 advantage.

Los Angeles continued to pour it on to end the third. The Lakers scored seven
of the final nine points, with all but two of LA’s points coming from Bryant,
as the Lakers grabbed their largest lead to that point, 75-60, to end the
stanza.

“I just pace it out and read it,” said Bryant on why he gets going in the
second half. “When I sense the momentum, when I feel it’s time to go in for
the kill, that’s when I do.”

Minnesota never really threatened in the fourth, getting as close as eight
points, 83-75, with 5:11 left when Wally Szczerbiak hit a technical free throw
to cap a five-point burst by the club.

However, Los Angeles extended its lead back to 13 points 1:55 later when
Bryant hit a layup.

On the next Lakers possession, after Szczerbiak hit a three for the
Timberwolves, Minnesota began the hack-a-Shaq plan, sending him to the line
where he made 1-of-2. Phil Jackson countered that move by lifting O’Neal until
there was just under two minutes left and the Lakers had the game well in
hand.

Bryant ended shooting 10-of-24 from the floor and 9-of-10 from the line,
adding eight rebounds and four assists to his totals.

“He knows he’s under duress. I think he marshals more energy because of that,”
said Jackson on why he thinks Bryant plays well when he has to juggle a court
appearance and a game on the same day. “That’s just the competitive nature he
carries. It’s a great feature of his play.”

Szczerbiak ended with 19 points off the bench for Minnesota, which played most
of the game without one of its key players in Sam Cassell.

The injured point guard played only five minutes, as his hip and back injuries
were too much for him to overcome. He didn’t play at all in the first half and
went to the locker room after the third quarter, finishing with three points
on 1-for-4 shooting.

Los Angeles won the battle of the boards, 52-41, dominating the play in the
paint all night. The Lakers outscored the Timberwolves 42-32 in the lane on
their way to 41.5 percent shooting.

Minnesota was held to just 38 percent from the floor, as the club was held to
under 90 points for a playoff record eighth straight game.

“We’re in a back against the wall situation,” said Garnett, who played 47
minutes and shot 12-for-24 from the field. “I’m at a loss for words right now.
We’ve got to go back to Minnesota in a must-win game.

“We feel confident going home. We know we can win there and that’s the focus
right now.”

Karl Malone added 12 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for LA. Derek
Fisher tallied 15 points off the Laker bench.

Latrell Sprewell had 12 points for the Timberwolves.

LAL MIN