LAL 97, MIN 92: March 16 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening home contest at Staples Center, the Lakers looking for a fifth straight win, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Blake*, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Wolves: L. Ridnour, M. Webster, W. Johnson, K. Love, N. Pekovic
*With Derek Fisher being traded on deadline day, Steve Blake got the starting nod, though we were also sure to see newly-acquired point guard Ramon Sessions.

FIRST QUARTER
8:15 A slow start to the contest due to a bunch of fouling picked up with a pretty baseline spin move through traffic from Bryant, continuing as Gasol’s pretty hook shot in the lane gave him six of L.A.’s nine points in a 9-4 early edge. The big story pregame, of course, was L.A. trading for Ramon Sessions in particular as well as Jordan Hill.

2:51 Just a few seconds after checking in for his debut, Sessions scored on a runner in the paint, playing pick and roll with Troy Murphy, and releasing the ball when Minnesota’s defense didn’t converge. Mike Brown said before the game that L.A. would immediately run pick and rolls for Sessions, as it’s his strong point, to see what he could do.

0:00 Two triples from Bryant were the late difference in a 23-19 edge for the Lakers, while Sessions missed a 15-footer in his second FGA as a Laker. Both teams shot poorly in the first, L.A. hitting only 38 percent with usually efficient Bynum missing all four of his attempts.

SECOND QUARTER
5:55 The early results for Sessions’ debut were pretty enticing for the Lakers: six points on 3-of-5 field goals, including two blow-by layups (one in transition, something they simply didn’t have before his acquisition), two assists for wing threes from Matt Barnes, two turnovers, a rebound and a +10 on the scoreboard.

0:00 Providing a strong bench boost, in addition to Sessions, was Josh McRoberts, who flew in for a two-handed put-back dunk one trip down after grabbing an offensive board (five total boards), and added a big one-handed alley-oop throw down from Barnes for which he hung in the air for about as longer than it took to write this sentence. Kobe added a fierce one-handed slam of his own, but L.A. let up defensively in the final minute to concede the final five points to Kevin Love. Nonetheless, they led 50-41 at the break.

THIRD QUARTER
9:00 Looking like Kobe for a minute, World Peace blew by Martell Webster for a left-handed layup, putting L.A. up 57-47, though the Lakers were struggling with brute center Nikola Pekovic on the other end, the Montenegran reaching 16 points with six boards by hitting 1-of-2 FT’s at the other end.

4:42 As Kobe’s two free throws went down, L.A.’s lead grew back to 14 at 66-52. Kevin Love was scoring for Minnesota, with 20 points plus 10 boards, but it wasn’t hurting the Lakers as most were perimeter jumpers and he wasn’t involving his teammates (no assists). Bryant had 16 and Gasol 13, while Blake had six assists.

0:00Back-to-back threes from Kobe allowed him to match a season high with five triples; he also hit five at Minnesota on Feb. 29, and on this night, used ‘em to keep L.A. up 14 and get to 22 points. Both came from Sessions, giving him four assists in his debut to that point. The Lakers took a 74-61 lead out of the quarter.

FOURTH QUARTER
4:46 L.A. largely controlled the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter, though the Wolves managed to cut it to six momentarily before a free throw and then jumper fell for Kobe, giving him 25 points and L.A. an 85-76 lead. Sessions checked out for good with seven points, five assists, four boards and three turnovers in 19 minutes, a solid debut for the newest Laker.

1:59 Bynum made his seventh straight free throw, setting up what may have been a perfect FT game … until he missed the eighth. Nonetheless, his much improved FT shooting of late had him near 80 percent in March, helping him to 15 points with 14 boards in this one despite 4-of-12 field goals. Kobe had 28 points on 9-of-20 shooting, Gasol 13 with 11 boards and Barnes 15 points off the pine.

0:00 Your final: Lakers 97, Wolves 92. A quick look atop the Western Conference: the Spurs beat Oklahoma City (33-11) on the road, so with an eighth win in 10 games coming soon, the Lakers (28-16) get to within five games of the conference lead, and stay two games behind San Antonio (29-13) for second. With the Clippers having lost six of 10 to fall to 24-18, L.A. also had a full three-game lead in the Pacific Division. Up next, a Sunday contest against Utah. See you there.