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TRANSITION GAME LONNIE WHITE

Defense Makes for Great Offense

May 01, 2003|LONNIE WHITE

Whenever the Lakers have a strong game on offense in the playoffs, it usually is a result of their defense. That certainly was the case in a 30-point victory in Game 5 Tuesday, when the Lakers swarmed the Minnesota starters, causing them to miss 37 of 62 field goals.

The Lakers were able to get their hands on a lot of Minnesota passes and sloppy dribbles as they picked up 13 steals. Derek Fisher not only had a big night on offense with five three-pointers, he also finished with a team-high four steals. Brian Shaw, Robert Horry and Devean George combined for six more, and Shaquille O'Neal even had two steals.

The Lakers forced Minnesota into 17 turnovers by moving their feet and forcing players such as Wally Szczerbiak (four turnovers) and other slow-footed Timberwolves into ill-advised drives in traffic. Minnesota has to take better care of the ball in order to have a chance tonight.

A breakdown of Game 6:

MINNESOTA'S MOVE -- The Timberwolves may be a little tired after pressing so much earlier in the series, but they'll have to play with even more energy to force a seventh game.

Now that the Lakers are starting to double-team Kevin Garnett, he has to get out in the open court more to get his points. That means the Timberwolves have to rebound better than they did Tuesday, when the Lakers held a 44-36 edge on the boards. Minnesota's Rasho Nesterovic and Marc Jackson combined for only three defensive rebounds, which is not good enough for the centers.

Troy Hudson, who struggled to find his shot in the second half in Game 5, has to stay aggressive offensively, which means more drives to the basket off pick-and-rolls. If Hudson gets off to a slow start shooting and continues to turn the ball over, don't be surprised to see veteran Rod Strickland play more minutes.

Minnesota's biggest challenge is to play smarter on both ends of the court. On Tuesday, the Timberwolves launched questionable shots and left the wrong Laker shooters open when they were still in the game. That's where veterans such as Kendall Gill, Gary Trent and Strickland may help tonight.

LAKERS' MOVE -- The best thing about Fisher's 24 points in Game 5 was that he kept shooting. He made his first three three-point shots, then missed a perimeter jumper at the end of the first quarter. In the past, Fisher may not have looked for his shot for the remainder of the game, but not Tuesday. In the second quarter, Fisher stepped in and made three mid-range jumpers to finish with 17 first-half points.

Another good sign for the Lakers in Game 5 was their bench play, led by Shaw, Mark Madsen and even Samaki Walker. Although the reserves accounted for only 13 points and 11 rebounds, they gave Coach Phil Jackson good minutes.

Shaw may have missed six of seven field goals, but he did a solid job defending Hudson and Szczerbiak while also grabbing six rebounds. Madsen and Walker were both busy bodies in the paint in limited minutes.

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