The Los Angeles Lakers came into tonight’s game in Minnesota with a 1-7 record on the road, and needed a win in order to avoid humiliation. The Lakers lost to the Milwaukee Bucks last night without Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson, and a loss tonight would have ruined their image even more.
Although the Lakers do not play marquee games versus the Timberwolves, this match-up was essentially a must-win.
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The Lakers opened up the game by once again feeding the ball to their big-men, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The front-court scored eight of the team’s first nine points. In addition, the Lakers were playing solid defense and the Wolves and were boxing out rebound machine Kevin Love well. With 8:50 left in the opening period, the Lakers held a 9-3 lead.
The Lakers’ offense continued to strive and the players were connecting on their shots from the field and the free-throw line. Gasol was clearly the Lakers’ center-piece on that end of the court and the ball was going through him on nearly every possession. Thanks to Gasol’s early ten points and the 67 percent shooting as a team, the Lakers held a 15-9 advantage midway into the first quarter.
Los Angeles’ offense began to struggle in the final minutes of the period, but the team was lucky that the Wolves were also unable to score. The Lakers were relying on perimeter shots instead of attacking the paint on a fairly small Wolves team. However, Minnesota began to push the ball up the court and their increased level of intensity disrupted the Lakers’ flow.
After 12 minutes of play, the Lakers held just a 22-19 lead after dominating in the opening minutes of the period. Pau Gasol led the way with 14 points, and Kobe Bryant put in five points and grabbed seven rebounds.
As a team, the Lakers shot 47 percent from the field, while the Wolves were at 39 percent.
The Lakers started the second quarter with Kobe and Gasol on the bench, leaving Andrew Bynum as the only starter on the floor. With a dynamic seven footer manning the paint, the Lakers had no problems scoring the ball and Andrew Goudelock helped out tremendously with his five points. However, the Lakers’ issues on the defensive end where they could not stop the Wolves from scoring.
Nikola Pekovic was able to score seven points and grab seven rebounds on Bynum and Gasol and the Wolves found ways to remain in the game. At the 8:57 mark of the second quarter, the Lakers had just a 31-26 lead.
The Lakers responded the Wolves’ run well and relied on their three-point shot to do it. Los Angeles is not a very good in terms of shooting behind the arc, but Troy Murphy’s two consecutive helped open up the lead. With 5:45 remaining in the first half, the Lakers’ three three-pointers helped them take a 39-32 lead.
At the 4:52 mark in the second quarter, Kobe Bryant converted on a layup and surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most field goals made in Los Angeles Lakers franchise history.
From that point on, Kobe Bryant took over the scoring load and began to be more assertive with the ball in his hands. Behind Bryant’s 11 points, the Lakers were beginning to take over the momentum and had a 47-36 lead with a little under three minutes remaining in the half.
The Wolves made a diminutive run to end the first half, and after 24 minutes, they trailed the Lakers 53-45. Gasol poured in 16 points and Kobe Bryant was right behind him with 14. As a team, the Lakers shot 54 percent from the field and 3-6 from three-point range.
Kobe Bryant started the second half by connecting on two consecutive three point shots and it was clear that he wanted to put away the Wolves as quickly as possible. On top of that, the Lakers’ big-men were still dominating the paint and those two things combined allowed the Lakers to maintain their double-digit lead. At the 9:22 mark of the third period, the Lakers were ahead, 62-49.
The Lakers did a good job limiting the Wolves on the defensive end to one shot. The usual rebound maestro Kevin Love only recorded six rebounds as the Lakers’ seven footers were dominating the inside. Momentum was clearly on the Lakers’ side, but they could not find a way to expand their lead. With 6:36 left in the third quarter, the Lakers were still only up 67-55 even though they were controlling both ends of the court.
However, Kobe Bryant once again took over the game and his three-point shooting greatly helped the Lakers. Los Angeles was winning the third quarter 20-10 and the Wolves were trying to do whatever they could to weather the storm. With five minutes remaining in the period, the Lakers opened up a 18 point lead, 73-55.
The Wolves, nevertheless, went on a major surge late in the quarter and began to out-hustle the Lakers. The Wolves used their speed and explosive attack to go on a 14-2 run to cut the Lakers’ lead down to five, 79-74.
The Lakers could not handle the Wolves’ zone and they were unable to connect on their shots. The Lakers were very successful from the perimeter previously, but the Wolves’ zone defense affected Los Angeles’ offense. In addition to that, the Wolves crashed the boards and were finding wide open shots near the basket or behind the three-point arc.
The Wolves continued to ride their momentum to the fourth quarter and thanks to a Kevin Love tip-in, the Wolves cut the Lakers’ lead down to one, 83-82. The Wolves were clicking on all cylinders and the Lakers were having trouble on both ends of the court.
The Wolves played with confidence in the fourth quarter and they were not fazed by the Lakers’ star power. The Wolves had an answer for every Laker bucket and Ricky Rubio was able to dissect the Lakers’ defense to find his teammates for open shots. With 7:00 left in the game, the Lakers held a mere four point lead, 89-85, and it seemed as though this one would come down to the final minutes.
The Wolves got their first lead of the game, 91-89, with a little over five minutes left in the game after a Michael Beasley tip-in. At that point, the game was going back and forth and neither team could get enough going to put together a run.
In the final minutes, however, the Lakers showed poise and came up clutch in the most important moments. The team has a roster full of veteran players and they all made big plays in the final minutes of the game. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol carried the Lakers to the finish line and put away the feisty Timberwolves. Bryant was knocking down his shots from mid-range and the Lakers were finding success down inside.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Lakers found themselves up, 106-101. The team won its second road game of the season and improved to a 12-9 record overall.
The Lakers’ next game will be on the 31st when they will host the Bobcats at 7:30 p.m. PST.