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Lakers: DJ Mbenga, Sun Yue
Timberwolves: Corey Brewer, Calvin Booth, Kevin Ollie
Lakers Fish, Kobe, Luke, Pau and Bynum
Wolves Sebastian Telfair, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith, Al Jefferson
12:00 This would have been a tricky game for the Lakers under normal circumstances, the first of a six-game trip in a cold city where the team’s record isn’t reflective of its current play, but with the OT loss vs. Charlotte on Tuesday, Kobe Bryant (who fouled out and was the opposite of happy about it) should have his squad well-focused.
11:07 After Fish opened the game with a long jumper, Jefferson grabbed his first offensive rebound, and stuck it back in to tie the score. Defensive rebounding is going to be a key throughout the evening for L.A., as not just Jefferson but also Smith, and especially Kevin Love off the bench, are quite effective on the offensive glass.
10:28 It’s a new Bynum, isn’t it? Taking advantage of his height for the second-straight possession, ‘Drew scored easily over Jefferson for a 6-2 lead. He just dropped it over Al’s head. Minnesota starts the smallest four-five combination in the league, in fact, and the Lakers know they need to pound the ball into the paint.
9:00 You knew Kobe was going to bring it tonight. He opened his early onslaught with a tough fade-away jumper off glass, plus the foul with Foye defending. He followed with a transition three, and then another tough jumper plus the harm for eight early points and a 14-5 lead.
6:52 The Bynum Project (his last five games) continued with another easy drop-in from the paint for his sixth early point and a 20-11 lead.
5:38 Remember, the Timberwolves had the league’s best record in January (10-3) before San Antonio beat Phoenix last night, and there’s a reason for it: the players are playing with a completely new confidence ushered in by head coach Kevin McHale. Seriously … try to find one basketball person around the Wolves to tell you otherwise. The confidence manifested in a quick 4-0 burst after Kobe and Bynum willed the Lakers to a 20-11 lead, which may not seem like much, but may have been enough for the Randy Wittman Wolves to give up.
3:11 With the Wolves simply out-hustling the Lakers, Ryan Gomes scored six-straight points – a triple and an and-1 – to give Minnesota its first lead at 27-26. Walton and Telfair would then exchange baskets to make it a 29-28 ballgame heading into a Lakers’ timeout with 2:34 remaining.
The Wolves have a few extra-motivated players tonight, due to respective All-Star snubs: Jefferson was left off the All-Star team, and Love the rookie team. Let me just say this: David West isn’t even close to Jefferson. Not only is Minnesota’s big man one of three players in the NBA averaging 20+ points and 10+ rebounds, but he’s the sole focus of opposing defenses (that’s when you reach star status). West scores because Chris Paul and New Orleans’ three-point shooters draw much of the attention away from him offensively, and he’s averaging only 7.3 rebounds. Ridiculous. I can understand Shaq over Al, but no way can you make the West argument, just because his team has a much better (pre-January) record. Love’s exclusion is even worse, as you’ll hear from Joel Meyers if you’re listening to the Lakers broadcast (is this too much Minnesota information? I’ll try to slow down).
2:14 Out of the timeout, the Lakers moved the ball well (with Farmar, Ariza and Odom on the floor) and got a triple from Lamar. Ariza’s inclusion on the floor is most notable here, of course, due to the worrying concussion symptoms from which he was suffering. Before the game, he said he was feeling “just fine,” and he looks … fine.
0:30 There’s Love’s first jumper, which Gasol conceded by not popping out off the screen and roll. Pau did counter by taking Jefferson easily on the low block to put L.A. up 33-31 heading into period No. 2.
11:23 As you’d like to see, the Lakers went to Gasol with Love guarding him on back-to-back possessions, resulting in two free throws (one made) on the second touch. Gasol seems to be losing a few touches to Bynum since ‘Drew’s been playing so much better, so it’s important to feed the Spaniard when Bynum’s on the bench.
10:28 Pau again, this time on a drop off in transition from Vujacic, who checked in for Bryant late in the first quarter. That bucket gave Gasol seven points with a board and a dime, and his team a 36-33 edge.
9:17 A troubling note: Rodney Carney apparently watches Gerald Wallace game tape, because he frequently pops his mouthguard out of his chomper to munch on it. Not as much as Wallace, but still, it’s worrisome.
8:14 With L.A.’s bench playing well, Farmar bombs a triple for an eight-point lead, L.A.’s biggest since the 20-11 edge in quarter one.
7:45 With Bynum checking back in, the Lakers immediately went his way, and he promptly scored (easily) over Love in the lane. Love, who’d made two free throws on the previous possession, came back with an offensive board put-back (Minnesota’s seventh O-board).
6:45 The Wolves simply don’t have the length to bother L.A. much defensively. We know this not just from watching how easily Bynum and Gasol (21 combined points in 26 minutes) were scoring, but also because L.A. was shooting 60 percent (21-of-35).
5:07 One of Minnesota’s best features here at Target Center is the playing of the sound that you hear in “Super Mario Brothers” when jumping into a coin. That occurred as Rodney Carney hit two free throws.
3:36 You have to like Jackson’s coaching move this quarter in keeping Gasol and Bynum on the floor together for the bulk of the period. The Wolves are struggling to guard either one, especially when both are on the floor together. Bynum’s and-1 gave the Lakers a 60-51 lead, and ‘Drew had 15 and seven in 14 minutes.
2:52 Make that 17 for Bynum, who’s made 6-of-8 shots. Meanwhile, Josh Powell checked in for Gasol, as Jackson stayed with his size theme. Powell’s a great rebounder, which is needed on the defensive glass against Jefferson, Love and Co.
1:42 Two more big plays from L.A. occurred on a huge swat of Jefferson by Bynum and a Powell offensive rebound. The Lakers couldn’t convert those plays into points, however, and Smith’s layup brought Minnesota within six at 62-56. Vladimir Radmanovic then missed a running layup, and Gomes scored to make it a four-point game.
0:35 Maybe the biggest cheer from the sold out crowd (second sellout this season in Minnesota) came as Gomes played solid defense on Kobe, ultimately forcing a deep air ball. However, Radmanovic stole the inbounds pass and jammed it on Foye with one hand to quiet the crowd.
The half closed with another Gomes jumper (Gomes led the Wolves with 14 points in a solid half ) and a Telfair strip of Fisher as time expired. So, even though L.A. effectively used it’s length advantage, the Wolves stuck around in gritty fashion to keep the game close at the half.
11:11 After a Walton layup, Luke found Bryant in the paint in a play resulting in two free throws, a 4-0 run and an eight-point lead. Will we see a good defensive thrust here from L.A.? Perhaps for a bit, but it’s always a little tougher to play great defense when offense is coming so easily.
9:36 A nice play from Bynum showcased what’s been some impressive footwork from the kid of late, and got him to 19 points plus 10 boards, another double-double, his fifth straight. With two Gasol free throws a possession later, L.A. took a 74-65 lead.
7:42 The Lakers seem to be getting a lot of benefit-of-the-doubt calls, such as the whistle on Gasol which netted two free throws and an 80-67 lead. Even still, the Lakers have tightened up defensively.
7:07 A Walton three pushed the lead up to 16, as the Lakers have outscored the home team 19-7 this quarter. Walton continued his nice game two minutes later with two free throws to get him 11 points, plus four boards and two dimes.
4:42 Broken record alert: L.A.’s length is killing Minnesota. This time Gasol grabbed an offensive board, and drew the ensuing foul, as 1-of-2 free throws made it an 88-73 game.
4:03 There’s Kobe’s momentum jumper. Every once in a while, when Bryant sniffs his opportunity, he’ll pull-up in transition when the defense isn’t expecting a shot. He hit that one, a three, to make it 91-73. Bryant’s pretty good at playing basketball.
2:46 Jefferson made a jumper to get to 18 points and 10 rebounds, his 25th double-double of the season. Bynum’s length has largely kept Jefferson from getting easy buckets, but Al’s getting his FGAs up.
0:48.0 There’s Love again on the offensive glass, getting his ninth board and 12th point in 13 minutes. The kid’s very effective in some aspect when he’s on the floor, and he definitely helps you more than he hurts you.
0:34.2 Kobe drew a foul and was set to shoot two free throws, but went ahead and dunked the ball – hard – after the whistle. Just as I was going to say “The finger must be feeling better,” he left the floor to see Gary Vitti, most likely about his finger? After getting some quick treatment from the athletic trainer, Bryant returned to miss the first and make the second foul shot, then checked back out again for more work from Vitti. We’ll let you know what happened in a minute. If it’s not his finger, it could be the scab he has on his palm that opened*.
*Editor’s note: The blister it was, opening when Kobe hit his palm on the rim. He’s fine.
0:01.0 Ariza responded in buzzer-beating fashion to Jefferson’s hoop to give L.A. a commanding 100-85 lead after three.
9:52 Ariza, from downtown, to put L.A. up 109-91. He, Vujacic, Odom and Farmar have one triple each off the bench. Gasol would dunk on the next possession to push the lead to 20. The Wolves will make an effort-run, but 20 points has to be too many to overcome.
8:00 Minnesota responded with a quick 8-0 burst in a 1:52 span which included four Lakers misses from the field. We’re still unsure of Bryant’s status in terms of his hand, but may find out shortly now that the lead’s down to 12.
Not yet, Jackson’s sticking with Farmar, Vujacic, Ariza, Odom and Gasol, which promptly netted two Lamar Odom free throws. As he’s been doing lately, he hit 1-of-2.
7:18 Love, who was really put in some defensive mismatches all evening, fouled out as Gasol took him into the paint. He had some tough calls go against him, but still managed 14 and nine in 18 minutes. In related news, how was he left out of the rookie game? That’s not a rhetorical question: Love wasn’t playing much when Minnesota struggled to a 4-23 start, where he lost a lot of potential votes from any assistant coaches who only saw him prior to January. That’s all I got.
6:33 After Minnesota cut the lead to 10 for the first time in the period from Foye in the fastbreak, Ariza answered with a dagger triple. He then swatted Brian Cardinal at the other end, which resulted in a Gasol bucket (21 points for Pau) and a 118-103 lead. This is why Ariza’s contributions are often a bit greater than his box score.
The Wolves pulled four points back quickly, just before Bryant checked in with 5:08 remaining and an 11-point lead.
4:26 The lead finally went under 10 as Jefferson spun around Gasol and finished plus the foul to make it 118-110 (he missed the free throw).
By the way, Bynum hasn’t played this quarter after posting 23 and 13 in 33 minutes??
4:03 Bad shot from Bryant with some good defense from Rodney Carney … Never mind, swish. That from 22-feet, resulting in the traditional “ohhhs” and “ahhhhs.”
3:08 Kobe again, off the baseline this time to put L.A. up 122-111. I guess the hand’s fine. That’s 30 points for Kobe on 12-of-23 shooting, which ties Jefferson’s 30 on 12-of-25.
2:19 Bynum, who checked in just after we questioned where he was, scored easily – again – over Jefferson. That’s 9-of-14 for ‘Drew.
2:00 There’s the official dagger, a three from Fish (from Kobe) after he’d missed his first six attempts from beyond the arc.
For good measure, Fisher would add another triple, again from Bryant, to give L.A. a season-high 132 points and a 13-point victory.
See you in Memphis tomorrow night.