LAL 120, Wolves 117: March 27 Running Diary

Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota TimberwolvesBelow is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening contest at Minnesota, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Nash, Meeks, Bryant, Gasol and Howard
Wolves: R. Rubio, L. Ridnour, A. Kirilenko, D. Williams, N. Pekovic

FIRST QUARTER
Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota Timberwolves4:27 The second Dwight Howard field goal produced an 18-15 lead after Antawn Jamison replaced Pau Gasol, but it was the Spaniard who really set the tone for the Lakers early, making four of his six shots – one of the two misses was a missed goaltending call – for eight points. L.A. did a good job of getting Gasol looks near the rim, taking advantage of a mismatch with Derrick Williams, giving up at least three inches to Gasol.

0:00 After biding his time in the early goings with Gasol taking care of the offense, Bryant exploded for a dunk in the final seconds to provide a 26-23 lead. Gasol’s nine points and six boards were complimented by a block and a steal, the Spaniard looking much better than in his first two games back from a 20-game injury absence. He played 11 of the 12 minutes, as Howard picked up his second foul late in the period. That’s quite a luxury for L.A., being able to put just replace Howard with Gasol, who’s best position is certainly center.

SECOND QUARTER
6:50 L.A. were turning the ball over with alarming consistency early in the second, with five of their 12 in just 16 minutes, but maintained a 36-31 lead thanks in part to poor Wolves shooting (35 percent) and back-to-back triples from Antawn Jamison.

3:10 The turnovers kept mounting, but so did L.A.’s effort on D, particularly from Howard, who had four blocks (two consecutive on Nikola Pekovic, who’d been effective early but was only 4 of 9) and 10 rebounds alongside his 12 points, L.A. up 44-38 after Dwight split foul shots on the other end. Minnesota cut the lead to as few as two, before a 50-46 margin at the break, one that may have been much larger save for the 15 turnovers, the same number L.A. averages in a full game.

THIRD QUARTER
9:35 A 15-3 run for the Lakers allowed a 61-47 lead, Jodie Meeks capping the push with a fastbreak layup off Bryant’s sixth assist. Nash had one more dime, coming on an alley-oop to Howard, who dunked it home to reach a game-high 14 points with his 12 boards and four blocks from the first half.

2:15 Bryant had turned attack mode on, hitting 6 of 8 shots in the period for 13 of his 21 points, pushing L.A.’s lead to 84-70, one point less than the biggest lead. The Lakers were in firm control, but certainly needed to continue the defensive effort that had helped hold Minnesota to around 40 percent shooting. The lead would be 12 after three, thanks to a 41-point quarter (Kobe had 16), even though Minnesota scored 33 as L.A.’s D relaxed a bit in the process of scoring at will.

FOURTH QUARTER
5:03 Even after a Chase Budinger jumper, L.A. held a commanding 12-point lead with five to play, Howard’s stat line jumping out (23 points, 15 boards, five steals, four blocks) after consecutive buckets in the paint, but the Wolves were still working, Ricky Rubio leading the charge from an effort standpoint.

0:00 Some Hack-a-Howard really junked up the game in the final moments, Howard hitting only 2 of 8 from the stripe as the Wolves scoring almost at will on the other end to trim a 10-point lead down to as few as three points with a minute to play. As such, L.A. needed a big bucket from Kobe, who drained a 22-foot jumper to restore a five-point lead. He and Nash would subsequently convert most of their free throws in the final minute to produce an eventual 120-117 victory. Minnesota wanted a foul on a game-tying 3-point attempt from Rubio as time expired, but didn’t get it. The Lakers snapped a 3-game losing streak in the process, in advance of Thursday’s back-to-back at Milwaukee. We’ll see you there.