The Los Angeles Lakers were coming off two tough losses to the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards despite having a double-digit lead in the second half. The Lakers were given some help due to the fact that Wolves forward Kevin Love was out with an injury. However, knowing these Lakers on the road, anything could happen.
The Los Angeles Lakers had a very slow start to the game and were making matters worse with four early turnovers. Los Angeles was not getting the shots it wanted and was allowing the Timberwolves to get shots near the bucket or at the line. With 7:35 remaining in the quarter, the Lakers were trailing 2-8.
The Timberwolves were clearly the more energetic team and it seemed as though they wanted the game more than the Lakers. Despite the fact that the Lakers were embarrassed in consecutive games with their sub-par performances against non-playoff teams, they came out with no energy. The team was slow on loose balls and could not stop the Timberwolves in the open court. At the 6:13 mark of the period, the Wolves were leading 14-6.
The Wolves continued to play well on both ends of the court even without their star, Kevin Love. Ricky Rubio was running the offense tremendously well and the other Wolves starters ran the court well and filled in the void at the power forward position. With 3:40 remaining in the opening period, Minnesota was leading 24-12.
After 12 minutes of play, the Timberwolves were up 33-21 and were shooting 44 percent from the floor. The Lakers amassed seven turnovers in the opening period and Kobe Bryant shot 3-9 in the opening period for eight points.
The Lakers opened the period with their second unit and only one starter, Andrew Bynum, on the court. These set of reserves played well during this stretch in the previous two losses, and they played well on both ends of the court in tonight’s game. Their defense was on point and were able to get some nice, open looks. With 9:00 left to play in the half, the Lakers turned a 12 point deficit into a seven point game, 37-30.
The Lakers continued to play well and with Andrew Bynum getting the ball on nearly every possession, the Lakers were tough to beat in the paint. However, the team could not get enough going to make a major run and the Wolves were still having their way with the team. And when the struggling Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol got back into the game, the Wolves opened up a 43-34 lead with 6:00 to play in the half.
The Lakers’ offense began to click as the quarter progressed and the team was getting much easier looks. Metta World Peace stepped up and gave the Lakers some much needed points at the free-throw line. In addition to that, Bynum continued to pound the ball inside and was having success on the fairly smaller Wolves team (6-7 shooting, 14 points). With 5:20 left in the half, the Wolves’ lead was cut down to six, 49-43.
As the quarter came to an end, the Wolves were ahead 58-49. Kobe finished the half with 12 points on 14 shots, World Peace had nine solid points in 14 minutes and Bynum scored 16 points and grabbed five rebounds.
The Lakers increased their level of intensity in the second half and came out a totally different team. The Lakers were clicking on all cylinders and opened the period on an 8-0 to cut the deficit to one, 58-57, with nine minutes remaining in the period. However, Wesley Johnson caught fire for the Wolves and went on his own 6-0 run to rebuild the team’s cushion and give them a 64-57 advantage.
The teams went on a three-point shoot-out in the period and both squads were lighting it up from behind the arc. The Lakers were finally hitting their shots from the perimeter and were getting much needed help from Kobe Bryant. The Lakers and Wolves combined for 11, three-point shots and with 4:16 remaining in the period, the Wolves were up 73-71.
The Lakers still had trouble getting over the hump to retake the lead. The Wolves had the crowd on its side and whenever the Lakers made a key shot, the Wolves answered back with one of their very own. At the 4:04 mark of the period, the Lakers still found themselves trailing, this time by four, 75-71.
Kobe Bryant played extremely well in the latter portion of the quarter and was connecting from the perimeter and the free-throw line. After 36 minutes of play, Bryant scored 26 points and helped the Lakers tie the score at 78 heading into the final period.
The Lakers and Wolves went back and forth in the opening minutes of the quarter and neither team was able to pull away from the other. Bynum was the center piece to the Lakers’ offense and he was having a field day over the Minnesota front-court. At the 8:40 mark of the period, the Lakers were ahead by one, 86-85. And with Kobe Bryant on the bench for an unusual rest, it was nice to see the Lakers team perform well on offense without Bryant.
Kobe Bryant subbed into the game at the eight minute mark of the period and joined in the midst of an intense battle. Both teams were exchanging baskets and luckily for the Lakers, players other than Bryant were knocking down their shots. Matt Barnes and Steve Blake made key baskets for the Lakers and it was clear that they were slowly starting to gain more confidence. At the 5:10 mark of the period, the Lakers had a slim 92-90 lead.
The final minutes of the game, the Lakers put it together nicely and finally showed some poise in the fourth quarter. Kobe Bryant was once again the closer for the Lakers and Bynum displayed some toughness and energy which was imperative in order to put the Wolves away.
Los Angeles allowed the Wolves to gain momentum in the final seconds and the young squad was not willing to walk away with a fight. They played extremely well without Kevin Love, but with him on the bench, Minnesota did not have a go-to-guy when the game mattered the most.
Kobe Bryant knocked down key free-throws for the Lakers and eventually guided the team back to its winning ways. The team came back from a large deficit in the opening half, and for a change, they were the squad that showed resilience.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Lakers were ahead 105-102. Kobe Bryant finished the game with 34 points and connected on the line for important free-throws.
The Lakers will be back in action on Sunday when they host the Boston Celtics at 12:30 p.m. PST.