Lakers F Karl Malone was fined $7,500 by the NBA yesterday for lowering his shoulder and knocking over Timberwolves G Darrick Martin in Minnesota's Game 2 win Sunday night in the Western Conference finals.

Malone was ejected for a flagrant foul when he ran over Martin, who was setting a pick at midcourt with 2:31 left. Minnesota won, 89-71, to even the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.

* CASSELL BACK, SORT OF: Timberwolves G Sam Cassell returned to the court for practice yesterday and said again that he doesn't plan to let his bad back keep him out of Game 3.

In too much pain to play the fourth quarter of Game 1, Cassell started Sunday's Game 2 but lasted only 43 seconds before hobbling off.

"I felt a little better," the all-star guard said.

"I'm still not where I want to be at," he added.

With only one day between games, there's not much chance for rest in this round. So the Wolves now consider any contribution from Cassell a bonus.

"We have to play right now," teammate Latrell Sprewell said. "If he can give us something, that's great."

-- From News Services