Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Thursday evening home contest against Minnesota, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Wolves: R. Rubio, L. Ridnour, D. Cunningham, D. Williams, N. Pekovic
12:00 The longest current winning streak for one team over another in the NBA belongs to the Lakers, who have won 20 straight over the Wolves, but that meant little to Mike D’Antoni. Clearly, his team has little room for error, and needs to capitalize on the rare occasion from last night in which all three Western teams ahead of L.A. in the standings (Houston, Utah and Golden State) all lost.
4:07 Now to the action: L.A. jumped out to a 16-6 early lead behind some good all-around play, before allowing a 7-0 run that cut the lead to three halfway through the period. Kobe Bryant snapped the run with a layup off Steve Nash’s feed, however, after the veteran point guard had scored seven early points by hitting three of his first four shots. By quarter’s end, L.A. had the lead back up to six at 28-22, Bryant scoring the final four points of the period to reach 11 with his three assists. Meanwhile, Nikola Pekovic was being worked on in the Wolves locker room after tweaking his back, and was questionable to return.
6:45 L.A. pushed its lead to nine, but then watched J.J. Barea climb quickly to 11 points off Minny’s bench, getting the Wolves within three points, before Steve Blake sank his second straight triple to make it 39-33 for the home team. Pekovic, by the way, was diagnosed with an abdominal strain and would not return … the Wolves are just about the only team with worse injury struggles this season than the Lakers.
0:00 The lead grew back to double figures at the break, behind a late scoring burst from Kobe, up to 22 points on 9 of 15 field goals, plus three assists and four boards. Blake continued his terrific play off the bench and was rewarded with extra minutes, amassing four assists that should have been five when Howard threw down an alley-oop but touched the ball when it was over the cylinder.
10:20 Kobe was in serious Black Mamba mode, draining consecutive deep triples against a Wolves zone D to push the lead to 14 points, reaching 28 himself on 11 of 17 field goals. In the last three games plus his first half, Kobe was shooting nearly 60 percent from the field.
5:09 Bryant stayed red hot, nailing his fourth triple to reach 31 points, though Minnesota cut the lead to eight behind Ricky Rubio’s 11 points, 11 assists and six boards, shooting 50 percent in the game (Luke Ridnour 5 of 5) to stay alive. Moments later, Antawn Jamison helped push the lead up to 16, converting two and-1′s at the rim, and ultimately putting back Earl Clark’s miss after missing the first and-1 free throw for seven of his 12 points in 13 minutes.
0:00 L.A. couldn’t hit a free throw (47.1 percent), but it didn’t matter, because they were drilling three after three, climbing up to 15 in 27 attempts as Meeks nailed back-to-back late in the period, Blake drained his third and Bryant his trio early in the period. That helped produce a 91-75 lead heading into the final quarter, the Lakers looking to pull within two games of 8th place Houston.
7:13 Blake continued his terrific night, climbing up to six assists on an alley-oop to Howard, to compliment his season-highs in points (13) and boards (seven) with the Lakers up 104-83 thanks to a 13-8 to the fourth quarter. Bryant and Nash would likely be able to ice their knees very soon…
4:13 The bench was emptied for the final five minutes – for the most part, at least, as Devin Ebanks was the only reserve not in. Jamison stayed on, and reached 17 points with his eight boards, as L.A. led by 23.
0:00 And so it went, the final score of 116-94 reflecting a consistent, wire-to-wire effort for the Lakers, who move to within one game of .500 and two games of the playoffs. Bryant finished with 33 points in his three quarters on 13 of 22 field goals, Howard had an 11-point, 13-board double-double (with four blocks), and the bench finished with a combined 52 points alongside 23 boards with 11 assists, keying the effort throughout the evening. Up next is Atlanta on Sunday; we’ll see you there.