Lakers 97, Wolves 88: Running Diary

60116754Lakers – Wolves Gameday Page
We took a look at the Lakers – Wolves contest in Minneapolis as the Lakers looked to rebound from a tough loss in Denver the night before, with knowledge that a win would clinch home court advantage throughout the Western Conference Playoffs.

Lakers: Andrew Bynum (Achilles)
Wolves: Al Jefferson

Lakers: Fisher, Brown*, Artest, Odom and Gasol
Wolves: Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic
*Though Vujacic was announced in the starting lineup with Kobe Bryant opting to miss his second-straight game, Shannon Brown got the start.

Injury Update
Both teams come in missing their best players, with Kobe Bryant opting to rest for the second-straight night and Minnesota’s Al Jefferson missing the contest due to personal reasons. The Lakers also go without Andrew Bynum for the 10th straight game. For a full preview podcast of the contest, CLICK HERE.

60116789First Quarter
5:59 Much was made about how late … er, early … the Lakers arrived in Minneapolis (4 a.m. plane touch down), and such circumstances often have a direct impact upon that night’s game (whether they should or not). Sure enough, L.A. settled for jumpers for the first several minutes as the Wolves jumped to an 8-2 lead, but the Lakers quickly responded by getting better shots on offense and eventually knotting the score at 13 when Ron Artest nailed his first 3-pointer in three attempts.

3:22 Artest’s jumper made it 21-15, capping a 19-7 run, but the Lakers failed to score for the rest of the quarter. Fortunately for them, Minnesota couldn’t find the rim either, and L.A. took a 21-17 edge into the second quarter despite shooting just 36.4 percent from the field.

Second Quarter
5:51 Sasha Vujacic nailed his third straight shot of the quarter to get to seven points, helping a nice stretch from L.A.’s full complement of bench players (Farmar, Vujacic, Walton, Powell and Mbenga) that opened an 11-point lead.

2:57 Jackson didn’t put Gasol, Artest or Fisher in until the 5:51 mark of the second, a longer-than-usual rest (more usual for a back-to-back, of course), but the Spaniard promptly made an imprint by using his length in the lane to first nail a running hook, then grab his fourth offensive board and put it back to reach 12 points with seven boards, putting L.A. up 44-32.

0:50.1 Adam Morrison’s first appearance since garbage time in Atlanta rendered a baseline jumper, and Gasol added a free throw to get to a game-high 15 points while putting the Lakers up 52-34 at the half.

60117067Third Quarter
8:55 Phil Jackson didn’t look too pleased to see Minnesota go on a 9-0 run to begin the second half, but instead of calling a time out, allowed L.A. to figure it out … and that they did. Gasol scored on back-to-back possessions, then Odom laid in to put the lead back at 15.

3:09 The Wolves, however, used the middle portion of the quarter to swing right back, climbing to within seven points when Ryan Gomes hit two free throws. L.A. had no trouble scoring, but seemed to let up a bit defensively as Minnesota made 10 field goals in eight minutes after totaling just 15 in the first half.

0:24.5 An and-1 layup from the Human Victory Cigar (that’d be Darko Milicic, the No. 2 pick after LeBron and before Carmelo, Bosh and Wade) got the Wolves within nine at quarter’s close, cutting L.A.’s halftime advantage in half.

Fourth Quarter
11:00 Jordan Farmar’s 3-pointer pushed the lead quickly back to 10 after the Wolves continued to nibble, again getting it to within seven. The bucket gave L.A.’s bench 28 points with 11 minutes to play, and was Farmar’s third in four attempts. In fact, on the season, Farmar was at that point shooting 38.1 percent to lead the team (he passed Artest in March).

7:45 Congo Cash (you may know him as DJ Mbenga) was a relative scoring machine, nailing to early-fourth buckets to get to 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting. That was, in fact, good enough for Mbenga’s career high. Congo Cash.

2:41 L.A.’s bench failed to match its production from the first half early in the fourth, allowing Minnesota to cut the lead to just four repeatedly, but Gasol and Odom stepped up in a big way in the game’s final two minutes. First Gasol swatted a Wolves’ attempt at the rim, then nailed a hook on offense. On the next possession, Odom boarded Gasol’s miss before eventually dropping a dagger 3-pointer to put L.A. up 95-86 with a minute to play. Odom added the game’s final bucket on a pretty alley-oop layup from Farmar to seal the Western Conference for the Lakers.

Up next is a Sunday afternoon tilt against Portland back in Los Angeles, but until then, your numbers:

3 Straight years the Lakers have won the Western Conference.

11 Career-high points scored by DJ Mbenga. Congo Cash.

12 Turnovers for the Lakers, another solid performance in terms of ball control.

29 Points for Pau Gasol on 11-of-17 shooting, not to mention 15 rebounds and four assists in an impressive showing from the Spaniard.

33 Bench points for L.A., led by 13 from Jordan Farmar, who hit 3-of-6 3-pointers.