12-21-2006, 11:06 AM
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Big run lifts Lakers to win
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Dwane Casey felt helpless as he watched a 10-point lead disappear in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers.
He knew he had to rest Kevin Garnett and Mike James a little longer before bringing them back in the game, but cringed as the Lakers' second unit dominated Minnesota's reserves.
What Casey needed was an Answer.
One day after losing out to Denver in the bidding for Allen Iverson, the Timberwolves were outscored 34-7 in the final period of a 111-94 loss to the Lakers on Wednesday night.
The fact that Bryant spent the first 8 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter on the bench made the loss sting even more.
Vladimir Radmanovic and Maurice Evans combined for 16 points during a 25-2 spurt that erased Minnesota's 87-77 lead to start the final period.
"I'd love to play my starters for 48 minutes," Casey said. "But they have to rest."
One night after shooting just 6-of-19 from the floor and fouling out for the first time in more than a year in a loss to Chicago, Bryant scored 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting.
But it was Radmanovic and Evans who were the difference makers in this one.
Radmanovic hit two 3-pointers and Evans punctuated the surge against his former team with a dunk that gave the Lakers a 100-91 lead with 4:39 to go.
"It's one of those games where you look at each other as a coaching staff and say, 'Go figure,"' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "That your bench would come out and have that productive of a fourth quarter - it's incredulous really."
Pardon Garnett if he didn't find it very funny.
He had 22 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but in the story of his 12-year career in Minnesota, Garnett couldn't do everything himself.
After shooting 62 percent and playing nearly flawless offensive basketball through three quarters, the Timberwolves shot just 2-of-19 in the lowest-scoring fourth quarter in franchise history.
"We went from diving on the floor and being really scrappy in this game to, I looked up and we were down," Garnett said. "It's very frustrating."
The former MVP openly pined for Iverson after he demanded a trade from Philadelphia. When the deal did not get done, Garnett said he was "a little bit" disappointed.
"That's pretty much how it goes around here," Garnett said. "I've learned not to put too much belief and hope in things until they're concrete and done. ... It would have been a very, very nice Christmas present."
Garnett has criticized management in the past for failing to surround him with enough talent to win, and on Wednesday night he turned a questioning eye toward Casey.
The coach took responsibility for the loss, for being unable to find a way to stop the collapse, and Garnett didn't exactly disagree.
"We can't keep depending on our coaches to make decisions," Garnett said. "We've got to use our IQs and our basketball knowledge to figure things out and maybe call timeouts and maybe go to a zone."
Without Iverson, Garnett said he was determined to be aggressive from the start and show more leadership, if that's possible. He hit his first three shots of the game and went toe-to-toe with Bryant for the first three quarters.
The game began as a duel between two of the best players in the NBA. Garnett and Bryant seemingly traded shots through the first three quarters, with Garnett scoring 21 to Bryant's 23.
The two All-Stars combined for only three points in the final period, however, while the Lakers' second unit overwhelmed Minnesota's bench players.
Ricky Davis scored 22 points and Randy Foye added 10 for the Wolves, who couldn't solve Radmanovic and Evans.
Radmanovic scored 11 of his 17 in the fourth and Evans had 10 of his 15 for the Lakers, who won for just the second time in five games without Lamar Odom.
Odom, their second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, went down with a sprained ligament in his right knee on Dec. 12. He is expected to miss at least a month.
Andrew Bynum added nine rebounds and seven points off the Lakers' bench, which outscored its Minnesota counterparts 51-19.
"They came in and gave us a huge, huge boost," Bryant said. "It was really a great effort."