Again playing without Kobe Bryant because of an ankle injury, the Los Angeles Lakers picked up a 104-99 road victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 8, 2001. They were led by 34 points and 11 rebounds from Shaquille O’Neal, who was one of five Lakers to reach double digits.
O’Neal did the bulk of his damage in the first and fourth quarters, when he scored eight and 11 points, respectively. Though it was Minnesota who led much of the way — specifically, for more than 37 minutes of game time.
They trailed by one at the end of the first quarter but took a five-point lead into halftime. O’Neal and the Lakers trimmed their deficit heading into the final 12 minutes of play.
The Timberwolves managed to keep the Lakers at arm’s distance as the fourth quarter wore on, leading by anywhere from three to six points.
But that changed when O’Neal’s basket gave the Lakers a 91-90 lead with just over three minutes remaining. Brian Shaw then followed with a 3-pointer and pair of free throws to cap off a 7-0 spurt that gave the Lakers their decided lead.
True to his claim of making free throws when they count, O’Neal stepped to the line with 39 seconds remaining and knocked down both attempts to essentially ice the game. Derek Fisher finished with 19 points, five assists and five rebounds, while Shaw added 17 points and six assists.
The victory extended the Lakers’ winning streak to four games, and they stretched it out to eight to close the regular season. Los Angeles rode that momentum to 11 consecutive playoff wins before Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers snapped it by stealing Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Of course, O’Neal and the Lakers responded by winning the next four games to go 15-1 en route to claiming the second of three consecutive championships.