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Shaq fights off the hack for win

LAKERS 100, WOLVES 89: Worse than fouls, O'Neal conquers frustration for 2-1 lead.

Associated Press
Published May 26, 2004

LOS ANGELES - Shaq got hacked, whacked and smacked. And until Kobe Bryant finally showed up in Game 3 of the NBA's Western Conference final, it almost worked.

Shaquille O'Neal had 22 points and 17 rebounds, and Bryant rallied from a scoreless first half for 22 points in the Lakers' 100-89 victory over the Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

Gary Payton scored 14 of his 18 in the first quarter for the Lakers, who took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series by remaining unbeaten in seven home playoff games.

And Los Angeles did it the hard way, grinding out the win as the Timberwolves played vintage Hack-a-Shaq in the second half.

Shaq was 8-for-22 from the line, his anger growing with each brutal foul. His frustration was clear when he stared down the Minnesota bench while leaving the game in the final minute.

But O'Neal has a way of wearing down everything - defenders, scoring slumps, even that lid on the basket when he's at the line. He was 2-for-13 before finishing on a Rick Barry-esque 6-for-9 streak.

"My percentage isn't pretty, but I'm not going to miss them all," O'Neal said. "That hasn't worked at all this millennium, and it's not going to work."

Kevin Garnett had 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, but the league MVP went 161/2 minutes between field goals in the second half and fouled out. Wally Szczerbiak scored 19 of his 21 in the second half.

Bryant clinched it with back-to-back 3-pointers, the last with 4:46 left to put the Lakers up 91-74.

Game 4 is Thursday night. Before the game Bryant is scheduled for a court appearance in Eagle, Colo., as part of the case on sexual assault charges filed against him. Bryant is almost certain to arrive late at Staples Center.

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