The good news: the Lakers won for the fifth straight time on Friday night at STAPLES Center, getting 22 points and 13 assists from Kobe Bryant to send former Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis and his Timberwolves to their 12th straight loss with a 104-96 result.
The bad news: Andrew Bynum left the game early in the third quarter with a left Achilles strain, though he did manage to run up and down the court before checking out and exiting to the locker room under his own power.
Bynum, who scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting with five rebounds in 20 minutes, will be re-evaluated on Saturday.
“We’re a little concerned, he’ll probably miss a little while,” said Phil Jackson. “We’ll have to use our practice tomorrow to reassess how we’re going to play without Andrew for a little bit here.”
The proverbial show had to go on, of course (especially with Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Leonardo DiCaprio, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Jack Nicholson sitting courtside), and after the Lakers gave up a 10-point halftime lead as Minnesota claimed a 68-66 edge late in the third, L.A. turned the defense back up and cruised to an 8-point victory.
Pau Gasol continued a red hot stretch that featured 76 percent shooting in his past three games to score 17 points on 7-of-13 plus a team-high 14 rebounds, while Bryant had nine of his season-high 13 assists in the first half alone. L.A.’s bench chipped in 42 points, including 18 from Lamar Odom, who nailed four 3-pointers.
As the Lakers were up comfortably for most of the game, Bryant played just 32 minutes, Ron Artest 33, Gasol 34 and least of all Derek Fisher (16), as Jackson gave some addition run to Jordan Farmar.
Struggling with his shooting of late, Farmar had managed to hit just 2-of-17 field goals in his last five games while playing sporadically, but he managed 4-of-8 makes and 3-of-4 free throws for 12 points off the pine, plus six rebounds and two assists in 27 minutes.
Playing at STAPLES for the first time in 10 days, the Lakers shot poorly, making only 41.5 percent of their attempts, but made much of their money at the free throw line in making 29-of-35 attempts as the Wolves took only 11 themselves, making eight. Kevin Love notched a 19-point, 11-rebound double-double for Minnesota, and Darko Milicic was effective inside with 16 points and 12 boards before leaving with an injury late in the game.
Speaking of injuries … Bynum’s comes at an unfortunate time as he had been playing his best basketball of the season, averaging 15.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on 56.8 shooting in March, including averages of 20.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks on 63.3 percent shooting in his last four contests.
Make sure to check Lakers.com tomorrow for a Bynum update, but until then, your numbers:
1 Courtside high-five given to Tom Cruise by Kobe Bryant, in the second quarter as Andrew Bynum took the first of two free throws. That’s always fun.
9 Assists for Kobe Bryant in the first half alone. He finished with 13 on the game, a season high.
14 Rebounds from Pau Gasol to lead the Lakers. He’s averaging 11 boards a game on the season, the most on the team.
24 More free throws taken by the Lakers than the Wolves.
41.5 L.A.’s shooting percentage in their first game at STAPLES Center in 10 days.