MINNEAPOLIS — Laker Coach Phil Jackson is known for keeping opponents from running their first or second options.
Now, notes Timberwolf Coach Flip Saunders, they've taken away Wally Szczerbiak and don't seem to want to give him back.
Szczerbiak plays off the ball, has to get open for passes and is, thus, vulnerable to being denied the ball.
Laker fans may or may not wish to remember Jackson, as coach of the Chicago Bulls, doing the same thing to Byron Scott in the 1991 NBA Finals. Scott was coming off big performances in the first three rounds. In the Finals, however, Jackson put John Paxson on him, with orders never to leave him to help anywhere else.
Jackson also attacked Magic Johnson with a tag team of Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan, who took turns pressing full-court, making him work to get the ball up on every possession.
The Bulls held the Lakers to 82, 96, 86 and 83 points in the last four games and eliminated them in five.
In Game 1 of this series, with Kobe Bryant on the case, they held Szczerbiak, who averaged 17.6 points and 14 shots during the season, to 15 points and nine shots.
"We need to get Wally involved," Saunders said. "He's an emotional player, he's our best three-point shooter, and just [for] what it gives the team.... We can't look for just a first or second option.
"We've got to give Wally 15 to 20 shots, quality shots. If he gets 15 to 20 quality shots, he's going to get a high percentage, it's going to open things up for a lot of people."
Added Szczerbiak: "They're not going to rotate off me to go to a big guy 15 feet out, they're just going to stay glued to me. When you're in the type of situation I'm in ... mostly [an] off-the-ball weak-side player, you're going to rely on your teammates to get you involved....
"It's not about shots. It's more about touches, just being in the flow of the game. If I touch the ball and put it on the floor once and haven't dribbled it for five minutes, it kinda feels like a foreign object."
Saunders, on the first play of the second half, when Joe Smith didn't see Troy Hudson's pass and the ball flew out of bounds: "I didn't design that one."
Saunders, on the Lakers: "When they were 11-19, I said they're the team to beat for the championship because they've won it three times, they have guys who have been there and they know what it takes. They know what to expect in situations. You can never underestimate that. Plus, they have two of the top five players in the world....
"What's happening right now, early in the year, [Derek] Fisher wasn't shooting very well. Over the last three or four weeks, he's shooting very well. So when you put a third guy in that equation, you start a game and Fisher hits two threes and [Rick] Fox hits three -- they got five threes out of their quote-unquote non-scorers."