After a relatively dull first 44 minutes of action, the Lakers found themselves in a battle of attrition with a young Timberwolves squad that fought tooth and nail throughout Sunday’s contest at Minneapolis’ Target Center.
In fact, 27 combined points were scored in the game’s final 3:40 of action, including eight from Kobe Bryant, whose two free throws with seven seconds remaining ultimately sealed L.A.’s 46th win. The game’s biggest play, however, came from Lamar Odom, who was also the game’s best player with 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, not to mention 14 rebounds and three assists.
The play came after Minnesota hit back-to-back threes and got a Sebastian Telfair layup to bring the Wolves within one down the stretch: Bryant rose up for a three with 22 seconds remaining, but rimmed out only to watch Odom flash into the picture and use the glass to tip in the miss and put the Lakers up three. Two missed Wolves perimeter jumpers later, and L.A. had the game.
Yet, since the Lakers were forced to miss this year’s Oscars thanks to the game and an immediate flight to Oklahoma City, we thought we’d summarize the team’s 46th Academy Awards style.
Performance by a player in a leading role
Lamar Odom, who at times appeared the only Lakers’ player competing at the effort level brought by Minnesota’s youngsters. Odom finished with the aforementioned 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, grabbed a game-high 14 boards and chipped in three dimes. He also guarded whichever post the Wolves threw at him with equal aplomb (from centers to small forwards) in a terrific performance.
Performance by a player in a supporting role
Kobe Bryant, who led the Lakers with seven assists and grabbed six boards to supplement his 28 points on 11-of-21 shooting. As he was often the focus of Minnesota’s defense, Bryant generally made the right play in deference to his teammates.
Best animated feature film of the year
Sasha Vujacic, after being called for a foul with 11:02 left in the fourth quarter. Vujacic’s face was certainly award worthy, especially because of his consistency.
Achievement in art direction
Derek Fisher, for the beautiful arc on his key three-pointer with 1:44 to play. Fisher’s bomb, on the heels of his game-tying three on Friday night, answered a Mike Miller three that had the home crowd going nuts, and gave L.A. a much-needed four-point cushion. Fish had nine points, four assists and three dimes. No slight here to Phil Jackson, who’s troops have brought it when they’ve needed to throughout the season, particularly against stronger opponents.
Achievement in directing
Kevin McHale of the Wolves, for getting his team to play hard for the full 48 minutes. January’s Coach of the Month in the NBA, McHale’s been dealt a tough hand with Al Jefferson (23 points, 11 boards every night) going out for the season with an ACL injury, but his players clearly enjoy playing (hard) for him.
Best foreign language film
Pau Gasol, holding it down for Spain with 25 points, five boards and five assists. Gasol was at times unstoppable, and at others seemed to be conserving a bit of energy, though he was again very efficient in making 9-of-13 shots. The Wolves were at a disadvantage in this category, seeing as they have not one player born outside of the U.S., while L.A. can offer three.
Best motion picture of the year
“Slumdog Millionaire” or “Milk,” we’re fine either way. Sorry, couldn’t come up with a sensible basketball metaphor for this category.
Best music in a motion picture
Kevin Love, for the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love,” played after he scored by the Wolves’ sound guy.
In closing, we’d be remiss not to mention that Bryant’s 28 points allowed him to past Lakers legend Elgin Baylor on the NBA’s all-time scoring list at No. 20, in addition to No. 3 on L.A.’s list.
And with that, we’ll leave you and check in from Oklahoma City tomorrow.