The Lakers easily handled the Timberwolves last night, and in the process moved a little closer to their goal of winning their 17th NBA championship.
Of course, reaching the play-offs remains their immediate goal, and the win tonight allowed the Lakers to capitalize on losses last night by the Warriors, Jazz, and Rockets. After tonight’s win, the 9th place Lakers are just 2.0 games out of 8th place, 2.5 games out of 7th place, and 4.5 games out of 6th place.
The Timberwolves have been the NBA team most decimated by injuries this year, and their troubles were further exacerbated when starting center Nikola Pekovic left the game with an abdominal injury after only 9:19 of playing time.
The already small T-wolves got even smaller at that point, and as a result the Lakers ended up winning the rebounding battle 49-35, and outscoring Minnesota 46-36 in the paint.
But the Lakers also dominated on the outside as well, shooting 16 of 32 from distance.
Kobe Bryant led the way for the Lakers with 33 points, five rebounds and five assists, before sitting to watch the fourth quarter from the bench.
And, speaking of the bench – or at least the guys who usually sit on it – they were great! Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake each scored more points than everyone but Kobe, finishing with 17, 16, and 13 respectively.
Blake was particularly impressive, adding seven rebounds, six assists, no turnovers, and a team-high plus-minus of +20 in 25 minutes of playing time.
It should also be noted that in scoring his 17 points tonight, Antawn Jamison moved past the great John Stockton and into 39th place in career points, with 19,724.
Dwight Howard also played with good energy, scoring 11 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, and swatting four shots. Minnesota’s zone defense kept most of the Lakers offense to the outside, but Dwight was a force on defense tonight.
One of the best moments of the game came in the fourth quarter, when Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio, who was wearing a microphone and whose first language is not English, said to a rather glum-looking Alexey Shved, “Change your face.”
That was good advice – Minnesota was trying but didn’t have a chance in this game, and so better to enjoy themselves than get too wrapped up in the negativity of a loss.
While the win tonight was an easy one, the Lakers will face stiffer competition on Sunday, when they host the Atlanta Hawks, who are currently 33-23.
Though it will be difficult, Sunday’s game is also an absolute must-win for the Lakers, as their game after that will be in Oklahoma City to face the mighty Thunder.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
While this was Steve Blake’s best game of the season, Kobe Bryant was still the player of the game, scoring big points on efficient shooting for the fourth game in a row. Tonight, Bryant scored 33 points on 13-22 shooting, including 4-8 from distance.
Over the last four games, Bryant has averaged 35 points on 60% shooting – amazing.
In a post-game interview, Bryant was asked whether he might be playing himself into MVP contention. He did not take the bait, and instead replied that it’s all about championships.
Top Two Tweets in My Twitter Feed
“Kobe Bryant has that look in his eye tonight. He’s dominating. It seems like he’s trying to dunk every time down the court.” – @AlexKennedyNBA, mid-game tweet
“The Ricky Rubio Motivational Talking Toy: coming to a store near you.” – @Lakerholicz, mid-game tweet
Sunday, March 3 vs. the Atlanta Hawks, 6:30 p.m. PST
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