Minnesota Timberwolves (58-24)
vs. Los Angeles Lakers (56-26)
* Regular Season: Timberwolves won, 3-1. The Lakers won the final matchup in late March -- the only time in the four meetings they had all of their superstars completely healthy.
* Playoff results:
Timberwolves def. Denver, 4-1; def. Sacramento, 4-3.
Lakers def. Houston, 4-1; def. San Antonio, 4-2.
* Last playoff meeting: The Lakers beat the Timberwolves, 4-2, in the first round last year after losing the second and third games of the series. This is the furthest a Minnesota team has advanced in the postseason.
* Why the Timberwolves can win: Kevin Garnett. Even with an improved supporting cast Garnett has shown stretches where he can't be stopped. The task of trying to slow the league's MVP now falls on Karl Malone, who employed his tricks against Tim Duncan and slowed the Spurs. If Garnett can be contained, the Wolves have no chance.
* Why the Lakers can win: Shaquille O'Neal. The Timberwolves will use Michael Olowokandi, Ervin Johnson, Mark Madsen and Gary Trent to defend O'Neal, and none of them figures to have much success doing anything except committing fouls. O'Neal is shooting just 38 percent from the foul line this postseason, so expect to see plenty of Hack-a-Shaq.
Tonight: at Minnesota, 9, TNT
Sunday: at Minnesota, 8:30, TNT
Tuesday: at Los Angeles, 9, TNT
Thursday: at Los Angeles, 9, TNT
*May 29: at Minnesota, 8:30, TNT
*May 31: at Los Angeles, 9, TNT
*June 2: at Minnesota, 9, TNT
* If necessary