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MINNESOTA VS. LAKERS | TIMBERWOLF NOTES

Olowokandi Makes His Choice

June 01, 2004|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

Shaq or Kobe?

Minnesota Timberwolf center Michael Olowokandi, taking on a general manager's perspective for a few minutes before Game 6, gave his thoughts on who was more important for the Lakers.

"I think the key to the team is Shaq," said Olowokandi, who played five seasons with the Clippers before signing with the Timberwolves last summer. "Kobe's a great, great player. He's the closest thing to Michael Jordan, if there is a closest thing. But Shaq's ability to go in there and do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, that's the dynamic that I think makes the Lakers such a dangerous team.

"If we can do a decent job on Shaq, where he's not getting nine offensive rebounds or 10 offensive rebounds, and getting easy put-backs at will, then we have a chance of winning the game. That's what has to be done. I don't know how. Maybe we'll have to get on our knees and beg the refs."

Foul trouble didn't stop O'Neal from scoring 25 points in the Lakers' series-clinching 96-90 victory Monday. Bryant, for his part, had 20 points.

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The Timberwolves figured that O'Neal, averaging 14.3 shots after the first five games of the series, would get the ball more in Game 6, per his request. He had 15 shots Monday, a number that would have been higher had he not had four fouls by halftime. O'Neal had 11 shots in the first half.

"It's been a surprise that Shaq hasn't got more shots," said forward Mark Madsen, who spent three seasons with the Lakers before signing a two-year contract with the Timberwolves last summer.

"Shaq is somebody who communicates very well to his teammates. I remember several occasions in the past where before games he told guys, 'Give me the ball.' There were situations where Kobe would say that. Different times, different guys will say that. When that gets said, everyone makes a conscious effort to do that."

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As expected, Sam Cassell sat out a second consecutive game because of back spasms and a sore hip.

"I told Sam he had to be 85 to 90% in order to play," Coach Flip Saunders said. "After going through stuff [Sunday] he wasn't going to be able to do that. Before, it was a game-time decision, now it's not a game-time decision. He can't go."

Cassell averaged 16.6 points and 4.4 assists in the playoffs. He played 64 minutes against the Lakers, 10th-most on the team.

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