Once the Lakers established their largest lead over the Timberwolves at 29 points in the 2nd quarter, the excitement of a potential end to the 8-game abyss away from Staples bubbled over. The Lakers shot 9-11 from distance and the Pringles System found its rhythm, as well as temporary proof that it truly does work. Pau, starting in place of Dwight, shelved for treatment on his shoulder, rattled off 13 points of his team leading 22 in the 1st quarter from all angles, in the paint and from the perimeter. Kobe “Johnson” maneuvered around Minnesota’s defense and found everyone and anyone willing to shoot. Each starting Laker shot over 60% from the field and only one question lingered.
Would the Lakers give it all back?
Minnesota coach Rick Adelman brilliantly put his injury-shortened roster into a zone and they rallied to within 15 after a 21-7 run to close the half. After Nash hit a 3 to inflate the lead to 61-32, the Lakers clanked their next 7 attempts from beyond and opened the door wide open for yet another mind-boggling collapse. The T’Wolves naturally stayed in the zone, and the Lakers’ coaching staff seemingly made no adjustment whatsoever to counter. The Lakers went from skipping around the court making every conceivable highlight play to standing and casting away from 3 without regard. After 10 made threes in the first half, the Lakers made only two more on the night. The fool’s purple and gold three pointers suddenly lost their mark and their reign turned to a series of thunderous thuds off of the rim.
A 3rd quarter tantamount to watching a high definition replay of a route canal while getting a route canal sans anesthesia likely led fans to wonder which example of basketball was worse, the quarter or the 5-11 month of January. The Lakers less than triumphantly followed up quarters of 37 and 31 by posting 17 points in the 3rd. Their 56% field goal and 50% three point shooting marks from the half plummeted by 11 and 6 points, respectively. They committed 7 turnovers and continued not to attack the zone with anything resembling ball or player movement.
Fortunately, LA regained their sanity and went back to Pau in the post. Would it be another case of too little, too late? Minnesota crawled all the way back to within 4 with under 6 minutes to go in the 4th. With a road victory in sight, #KoBeethoven played his new role. A poetically unselfish fake three and a frozen rope 6th of 8 assists by Kobe to a diving Pau for an And 1 slam dunk halted the surging T’Wolves.
Kobe chased another, almost triple double scoring 17 points, getting the necessary 12 rebounds, but coming up just short on dimes. Nash chipped in 17 points, 7 assists, and 7 boards to make up for a Dwight-less lineup. Clark added another double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Antawn continued his recent run with 18 on 7-15 from the field and 7 rebounds of his own off of the pine.
With the rare road success, the Lakers creep to within 3 and ½ of idle Houston for the 8th spot in the post season. They overcome any lingering doubt of the inability to close a game on the road. But, they must stare directly at the 32 attempts from behind the arc on the stat sheet. This is a concern. As they head into Detroit to face another sub-.500 team, the Lakers must remember that swinging wildly to register a knock out blow also leaves the chin wide open and susceptible to a counter punch.