Lakers Coast Against Minnesota
Heading in polar opposites, the Minnesota Timberwolves were no match for the Los Angeles Lakers, falling 104-96 at Staples Center. The over-achieving, undermanned and lottery-bound T-Wolves, led by fan favorite and former Lakers Assistant Coach, Kurt Rambis, held a decisive advantage most teams don’t get to entertain when facing the defending champs… Based on Rambis’ number of years with the Lakers organization and being a key member of Phil Jackson’s staff, he had inside knowledge of most play calls, time-out maneuvering, and player tendencies. But having this knowledge and having the personnel to carry out the task are two different matters entirely. The last time these two teams met was in early December when the Lakers treaded lightly on their friend and won handedly 104-92, and tonight was no different.
Kobe Bryant (22 points, 13 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals) found open teammates early as the Wolves double-teamed him from the get-go. Pau Gasol (17 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 blocked shot) kept high-scoring Al Jefferson (14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, 1 steal) mostly under wraps, making it difficult for him to find open looks. Lamar Odom (18 points, 4 rebounds) and Jordan Farmar (12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals) powered the Lakers bench, carrying them to a 42-36 advantage. Minnesota was led by Jonny Flynn (20 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds) and Kevin Love (19 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) off the bench. The contest was a pretty sloppy affair with the T-Wolves committing 19 turnovers and the Lakers coughing up the ball 15 times. Minnesota shot the ball well (42-91 for 46.2%) compared to the Lakers (34-82 for 41.5%) but the difference was at the free throw line where the Lakers amassed a 29-35 to 8-11 advantage.
The Lakers raced out to a commanding 31-20 lead after the first quarter and coasted from there. The Wolves would actually outscore the Lakers the rest of the game 76-73, but the Lakers had enough in the tank to secure their 51st win of the season. Minnesota fell to 14-56 with Summer vacation coming up right around the corner. Darko Milicic (16 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 blocked shot) was putting together a decent game until late in the third quarter when he went down with an apparent back spasm, slightly induced by a well placed, Ron Artest (10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist) forearm shimmy. But the Lakers didn’t get out of the contest unscathed either. Andrew Bynum (11 points,5 rebounds, 1 assist in 20 minutes) came up lame early in the second half with a strained left achilles tendon. Kobe commented, “I saw him after the game and he wasn’t limping too much, so hopefully it’s not that serious and he won’t miss any time. But we need his rebounding and his defense. We throw the ball into him a lot, and he gets easy buckets for us with his size.”
dEDGE Post Scriptum
Fortunate enough to get tickets to the game, I took my youngest daughter (7 yrs. old) to her first Lakers game tonight. She was all decked out in purple and gold, sporting her old school Magic Johnson t-shirt, Laker beads and waving a freshly purchased foam finger. She appeared mesmerized by the size of it all, from the players to the volume and to Staples Center in general. Her bright eyes were busy darting from corner to corner, taking it all in and loving each moment. She asked why there weren’t any commercials during the time-outs and why the Lakers band had such crummy seats. She enjoyed watching the fans dance on the big screen and yelled her approval when we were rewarded with our free tacos. By the time we were back on the road heading for home, she was fast asleep, exhausted from her brand new adventure. All week she had boasted to her friends that she was going to a Laker game. She mentioned that she might see a star or two, perhaps maybe even a Jonas Brothers or even Beyonce. But alas, she had to settle for Tom Cruise, an Olympic bob-sledder and good ol’ Jack. As she opened her blurry eyes as we pulled into our driveway, she asked that “next time” we take a limo so that she could poke her head out of the sunroof and wave to all her newfound Laker friends.