What's On Tap

Western Conference Finals - Game 1

Los Angeles Lakers at Minnesota Timberwolves (TNT, 9 p.m. ET)

What to Watch

By winning the NBA's Most Valuable Player award recently, Kevin Garnett is waving a red cape in front of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

The Laker's tandem is proud. They consider themselves to be among the league's premiere players -- especially in the post season. Although each has said Garnett is deserving of the award, they would like nothing better than to use the Western Conference finals to showcase their skills while shoving Garnett into their shadow.

To help them, forward Karl Malone will be called on to wrestle Garnett into submission. The bruising play of the 6-foot-9, 259-pound Malone, with his wild elbows, will be a heavy load for the towering talent of the 6-11, 220-pound Garnett.

"[Malone] is in the logging business," Laker reserve Rick Fox told the Chicago Tribune. "He cuts down trees."

Forget about past bickering between O'Neal and Bryant. In the post season the two have traditionally united against whatever foe.

Bryant averaged 26.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists against the Spurs. O'Neal is averaging 19.6 points and 13 rebounds in the playoffs. Malone and guard Gary Payton have for the most part embraced their roles as defensive stoppers and support for Bryant and O'Neal.

Payton and Timberwolves point guard Sam Cassell will likely cancel each other out. Latrell Sprewell, Minnesota's mercurial slashing forward, has averaged 19.3 points in the playoffs and his shooting skills and attacking style -- especially in transition -- could prove difficult for the Lakers to handle.

The Timberwolves won three of the four regular-season games between the two teams. But in the first two, injuries depleted the Lakers lineup. In the final meeting, Bryant scored 35, O'Neal grabbed 18 rebounds and the Lakers won 90-73.

In the end, the series may come down to simple arithmetic. The Lakers have two superstars to Minnesota's one.

Last Night's Big Winner (Team)

Detroit Pistons. They overcome triple-overtime loss at home in Game 5 and gritty play by the Nets throughout the series. Winning the seventh game against the Nets should improve the confidence of the young Detroit team, which must now compete against former coach Rick Carlisle, now with the Indiana Pacers. Indiana finished with the best record in the NBA this season (61-21).

Last Night's Big Loser (Team)

New Jersey Nets. Team played hard for most of the series, but was overmatched by Detroit's powerful front line of Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace. The Nets must re-sign Kenyon Martin and find another quality rebounder and shot blocker.

Last Night's Big Winner (Players)

Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups. The Pistons' backcourt duo paced their club the entire series. While the Wallaces received most of the praise during the regular season, Detroit's guards may steal the post season show.

Last Night's Big Loser (Player)

Jason Kidd. When his team needed him most, when he absolutely had to uncork a big performance, he was held scoreless.