L.A.’s Friday night contest against a short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t prove to be much of a contest as the Lakers cruised to their league-best 50th win in 62 games.
Sure enough, when the game’s three biggest highlights come courtesy of D.J. Mbenga, Shannon Brown and … Mbenga again … it’s not a good sign for L.A.’s opponent.
After the starters had built an 18-point lead heading into the third quarter, L.A.’s bench decided to reward them with a quarter’s full of entertainment:
A) With 8:30 remaining in the game, Mbenga absolutely annihilated a Rodney Carney layup attempt, sending the ball well past the halfcourt line as the bench and crowd went nuts. The refs had to switch the game ball out, since it was half-deflated (not really), and Mbenga finished the game by tying a career high with five blocks.
B) Moments later, as Mbenga made two free throws en route to his career-high 10 points, the crowd offered an “MVP” chant. Fun.
C) Shannon Brown, he of the 45-inch vertical, exploded past a Wolves’ defender on the right wing and took out any anger in his life on the rim with one hand. Brown tossed in a high-flying swat of his own just for kicks.
Not one starter played more than 30 minutes (OK, Gasol played 33 seconds more than 30 minutes) as the bench saw three players score in double figures, led by Josh Powell’s 14 (plus six boards and three blocks), 13 from Trevor Ariza and Mbenga’s 10, not to mention eight from Sasha Vujacic.
Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 23 points in 27 minutes to move past Robert Parish into 18th on the NBA’s all-time scoring chart. Not bad, right?
The Lakers now leave town for the better part of the month, with 10-of-13 games coming on the road, including Monday’s game in Portland.
Until then, a few digits:
Career points for Kobe Bryant, good enough to pass Robert Parish (who played for 20 years) on the NBA’s all-time leading scorers list. Up next is Charles Barkley, who has 23,757 points.
Shooting percentage for the Wolves, who really struggled without Randy Foye in the backcourt.
Points for Ryan Gomes to lead Minnesota. Gomes, a former 50th overall pick by the Boston Celtics, is one of the league’s most underrated players, though he is popular among head coaches and GMs.
Swats for the Lakers, compared to just four for Minnesota.
Turnovers by the Lakers, their fewest of the season.
Points for Lamar Odom in 25 minutes, though to be fair Odom did take only two shots. He managed three blocks, five boards and two assists, but missed all four of his free throws.