MINNEAPOLIS, April 20 (UPI) -- Kobe Bryant scored 39 points and Shaquille O'Neal added 32 and 10 rebounds Sunday as the Los Angeles Lakers cruised to a 117-98 whipping of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the opener of their Western Conference first-round series.
"We have great weapons on this team," O'Neal said. "If you double and triple me, then Kobe is going to get off. If you double and triple him, then I'm going to be there to get off."
"We need to make defensive adjustments," Minnesota Coach Flip Saunders admitted. "They made tough shots, but we can't be in a position where Kobe and Shaq dominate the entire game."
The Lakers, who are trying to become just the second team in NBA history to win four straight titles, got off to an 11-19 start this season before reverting to championship form late in the campaign. But the slow start forced them to begin a playoff series on the road.
"It's a sense of urgency," Bryant said, "because the moment of truth is here. It's an immediate threat, an immediate danger, because they can knock us out of our title run.
"That's something that we have to deal with and we have to deal with it right now."
Minnesota, the league's second-best home team at 33-8, earned home-court advantage for the first time in team history.
But the Lakers wasted little time jumping all over the Timberwolves, taking the lead for good on the first basket of the game, a three-pointer by Derek Fisher 23 seconds into the contest. Los Angeles opened a 39-23 edge after one quarter and extended it to 64-44 on a jumper by Bryant with 2:57 left in the half.
"They shot the ball very, very well," Minnesota forward Kevin Garnett said. "They shot something like 67 percent in the first quarter. You have to take your hat off to them. There's not much you can do at that point."
Minnesota climbed within 66-52 at the break.
"You probably hope that I will have a lot of answers, but I probably don't," Saunders said. "Initially, to start the game, we didn't have the aggressiveness that you need to play in any playoff series."
Bryant went through multiple defenders in the first half, scoring 28 points while making 12 of 16 shots. The Lakers connected on 61 percent of their attempts in the half.
"(Minnesota) is a team that normally traps people, so I felt like it was important at the start of the game, when I do penetrate and get in the gaps, to kick it to my open man and get them easy baskets," Bryant said.
"Then I felt like they would have to honor that. As you saw in the first quarter, that's what I did. In the second quarter, I started attacking and started putting the ball in the hole."
The Timberwolves briefly made the game competitive, climbing within 80-76 on a free throw by Gary Trent with 2:49 left in the third quarter. But the Lakers countered as O'Neal had eight points during a 12-0 run over the next four minutes. They led by as many as 21 down the stretch.
"It seemed like there was a lot of space in the first half and Kobe was able to do what he wanted and get in a rhythm," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "Then, in the second, when Kobe's space went away, Shaq had space and was able to carry us."
Garnett contributed 23 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists for the Timberwolves, who made half of their 76 shots but allowed the Lakers to shoot 55 percent.
Los Angeles made 10 of 19 three-pointers while Minnesota went just one of five from beyond the arc. Fisher, who finished with 17 points, was five of six from three-point range.
Game 2 of the series will be played Tuesday night in Minneapolis.