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Rush's Timing Is Just Perfect

Laker guard makes six three-pointers in the biggest game of his young career.

June 01, 2004|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Phil Jackson has always considered Kareem Rush the Lakers' best perimeter shooter and Monday night, the second-year guard backed up his coach's words with a career game that helped end the Minnesota Timberwolves' season.

As the Lakers' Game 6 secret weapon, Rush had six three-point baskets and finished with a personal playoff-best 18 points in a 96-90 Western Conference finals series-clinching win at Staples Center.

"Guys were looking for me; the shots were there and I continued to take them," said Rush, who made his first three-pointer with 2:33 remaining in the opening quarter and then made his next five before missing late in the fourth quarter. "Tonight was just one of those nights when you think everything was going in."

Rush was one of the last players who figured to have a breakout game. In five games against the Timberwolves in the series, Rush had attempted only 16 shots and was shooting 25%. He also had made only three baskets from behind the arc and was coming off a one-for-five shooting effort in Game 5.

"The thing that impresses me the most out of him is that he doesn't seem to lack confidence, especially in clutch situations," said Kobe Bryant.

"He works hard in practice and then when he comes out here in the game, he shoots the ball and expects to make it. That's a big key, especially for a young player."

Although Rush's Game 6 offensive numbers gave the impression that he only stood outside the arc to shoot, he attacked the basket more on Monday than he did throughout the play- offs.

"He played a game of a career, obviously," Jackson said. "We know a lot about him as a shooter. ... I'm not sure too many people know of that ability that he has. So we encouraged the players to get the ball to him."

Rush made two three-pointers in the first quarter and another in the second. But it was his shooting in the fourth that brought the house down.

With the Lakers struggling for offense, Rush became the man. He played the entire final quarter and helped break open a tight game with three consecutive three-pointers.

"He's a great shooter who was aggressive tonight," Minnesota's defensive specialist Trenton Hassell said of Rush, who also added three rebounds, three assists and a steal in 23 minutes. "He was pump-faking and going to the hole. That's something that he hasn't been doing. He hadn't been knocking down jumpers the whole series, but he was feeling it tonight. They kept going to him and he kept on making plays."

Something Rush said he's always ready to do.

"I just have to stay ready," he said. "I know I didn't get a lot of playing time this series.... You got to take it for what it is.

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Quite a Rush

Comparing Kareem Rush's numbers in Game 6 with his numbers in the first five games of the series:

*--* Category Game 6 First 5 FG-FGA 6-8 4-16 FG% 75% 25% 3pt-3pt att. 6-7 3-10 3pt% 85.7% 30% Points 18 11

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