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We took a look at the Lakers – Timberwolves contest while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as L.A. went for its 11th consecutive victory.
Lakers: Luke Walton (though he’s active in the broadcast booth)
Wolves: Brian Cardinal, Jason Hart
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Wolves: Johnny Flynn, Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes, Kevin Love, Al Jefferson
Phil Jackson Pregame
Jackson’s regular pregame media session was in this case a tutorial on the triangle offense, due in large part to the fact that Kurt Rambis has his Timberwolves running a variation of Phil and Tex Winter’s system. Rambis had earlier shared that the Wolves are running a similar set, the primary difference being that they use one guard (Flynn) instead of two out of the offense’s base. The Lakers, in fact, used a similar set for Jordan Farmar
2:25 We have not one but two broadcaster switches tonight, with Hot Rod Hundley sitting in for Stu Lantz and the injured Walton subbing for Mychal Thompson. Hot Rod spoke to us before the game, while Walton immediately added some nuggets that only a teammate would know, detailing (for example) the amount of time Jordan Farmar’s spent at the gym with his personal trainer at night.
5:15 Remember when the STAPLES Center floor appeared to be fully covered in purple and gold as the Lakers swarmed the Jazz, allowing just six points in the fourth quarter? You know, on Wednesday? We didn’t see it in the opening minutes, as the Wolves managed a 14-14 tie heading into the first time out, but as Pau Gasol said, it’s literally impossible to play with that kind of intensity for a whole game. Of course, L.A. responded with a 12-2 run out of TO, keyed by … high-pressure defense.
0:01.3 According to assistant coach Brian Shaw, a major theme of L.A.’s game plan tonight was to pound the ball inside to Bynum and Gasol, taking advantage of the smaller Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, both of whom are 6-10. That’s sure what we saw in the first, as Gasol went 5-of-6 from the field for 10 points, and Bynum made 4-of-4 shots for eight of his own, including a buzzer-beating follow to close the quarter with L.A. up 33-24.
7:17Shannon Brown attempted to board the Lakers’ flight to Utah a few hours early, rising as high as only he can to throw down a Bryant alley-oop. Nasty. In not-so-fun news, Bryant sprained the index finger on his shooting hand, and after returning briefly went to the locker room with about four minutes left in the half.
5:50 The Wolves charged all the way back from 11 down to tie the score at 42 as the Lakers took a collective nap on the basketball floor (not literally). It was Minnesota’s unheralded bench featuring Ramon Sessions, Sasha Pavlovic and Ryan Hollins that combined to make up the deficit with 15 combined points.
0:40.0 A good sign for L.A. – Sasha Vujacic came off the bench in Kobe’s absence and nailed all three of his jumpers, including a three-pointer, all three of which came in rhythm with the offense. His back-to-back jumpers in the final two minutes put L.A. up 56-52, though the Wolves got a bucket back to trail by just two at halftime.
9:15 Just after we learned that Bryant suffered an avulsion fracture to his index finger, No. 24 dropped a three pointer from the top of the key. Is there a tougher player in the NBA? Walton doesn’t think so, as he stated on the radio.
6:22 L.A., steadily building its lead, got a pretty reverse layup from Kobe off Gasol’s feed, and then saw Bryant hit a 22-foot jumper to make it a 10-point game once again. The man apparently does not feel pain despite the splint on his finger.
0:35.6 The Lakers got a nice lift from their two Queens, NY products Odom and Artest, who played AAU together at the tender age of 12, and keyed a dominant 12-0 run to take firm control of the game. Artest and Odom combined for nine of those points, and joined Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown and Pau Gasol with a smothering stretch of defense to make it 86-68 heading into the fourth.
9:52 Farmar continues to excel off the bench, nailing another perimeter jumper to get to eight points off the bench. With that hoop, he’d hit the eight-point mark in seven consecutive games.
4:44 Ron Artest continues to sink threes, making his second of the night to get to 16 points. Odom followed with a silky left-handed layup as he glided through the air to put L.A. up 99-83, producing this line from Walton: “Not many prettier things in basketball than that right there.”
1:15 The game was long over, but Gasol drove the nail in quite deeply with a put back of Fisher’s miss to put L.A. up by 15. He then grabbed three more boards for a season-high 20 glass cleans, not to mention 17 points and seven assists. In related news, the Lakers have not lost since getting Gasol back into the lineup.
3 Left-handed shots made by Kobe Bryant, hurting a bit after an avulsion fracture of his right index finger. Bryant finished with 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting, plus five boards and five assists.
11 Straight wins for the Lakers, the most they’ve won since March and April of 2004.
13 Points from Lamar Odom, his highest scoring output since Nov. 13 in Denver when he scored 14.
17 Minnesota turnovers forced by L.A., due in part to nine Lakers steals, including three from Ron Artest and two each from Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom.
20 Rebounds from Pau Gasol, a season high both for him and for his teammates. Eight of his windex cleans came on the offensive end, matching Kevin Love’s output for his Timberwolves squad. Love finished just short of Gasol, with 19 total rebounds.
48 Points in the paint for L.A., including 22 in the first quarter when Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined to make 9-of-10 shots from the field.