NBA playoff matchup

May 21, 2004|By Milton Kent

Western Conference finals

No. 1 Minnesota (58-24) vs. No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers (56-26)

Season series: Minnesota 3-1.

How they got here: Minnesota beat Denver, 4-1, in the opening round and defeated Sacramento, 4-3, in the Western semifinals. The Lakers beat Houston, 4-1, in the opening round and defeated San Antonio, 4-2, in the Western semifinals.

Timberwolves outlook: Minnesota makes its first trip to the conference finals after winning its first Game 7 Wednesday over Sacramento. ... The Timberwolves won the season series over the Lakers for the first time this year, and have won seven of the past 11 regular-season games between the teams. ... Minnesota averaged 102 points in its first three games of the series with the Kings, but averaged just 84.3 in the final four. ... The Timberwolves are the best three-point shooting team in the playoffs (42.4 percent).

Lakers outlook: Los Angeles is 21-5 in Western Conference finals and is also 21-5 in Game 1 of the conference finals. ... Los Angeles eliminated the Timberwolves last year in the first round, winning the playoff series 4-2 after trailing 2-1. ... The Lakers held Minnesota to 73 points in their lone win this season (March 26), the lowest total a Timberwolves team has scored against Los Angeles. ... Kobe Bryant's scoring, rebounding, assists and minutes are all up in the playoffs from the regular season. However, he may have to miss a part or all of Game 4 as a court session is scheduled that day in Colorado in his sexual assault case.

Prediction: Last year, Minnesota point guard Troy Hudson gave the Lakers fits, but he is out for this series with an ankle injury. Add that to Sam Cassell's recurring back and hip ailments, and you have a weakness that Los Angeles can exploit. Add all that to the fact that the Timberwolves won't have anyone a la Tim Duncan that Shaquille O'Neal will have to worry about defensively and you have real problems. As Game 7 against Sacramento proved, Kevin Garnett is now an other-worldly player, but he won't be enough. Los Angeles in six.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.