The Los Angeles Lakers took care of business Thursday night against an undermanned Minnesota Timberwolves team.
Already without former UCLA Bruin Kevin Love, the Timberwolves lost Nikola Pekovic early in the game to an abdominal strain.
Without their entire front line – Andrei Kirilenko was also out injured – the Timberwolves offered little resistance as the game wore on. Somewhere in the third quarter, the Lakers pulled away and led by as many as 17 points, and that was all she wrote.
Ricky Rubio played an incredible first half to keep the Timberwolves within striking distance early on, but the Spaniard was fighting an uphill battle, and gravity eventually got the better of him. Rubio handed out nine assists in the first half, but even his inspired effort was unable to save his team from embarrassment at Staples Center.
Ultimately, it was the Kobe Bryant show.
The Black Mamba was in attack mode throughout the contest, and he finished with 33 points, five rebounds, and five assists in three quarters. With the Lakers leading by more than 20 points, Bryant was allowed to rest in the fourth quarter.
Bryant was especially efficient from long-range, as he shot 4-8 on 3-pointers. As a team, the Lakers shot 16-31 from on threes.
Everything worked for the Lakers on Thursday.
Steve Nash started aggressive with seven points on six shots in the first quarter, but he decided to allow Bryant to command the spotlight for the remainder of the game. The Canadian recorded a team-high seven assists in 25 minutes of play.
Dwight Howard was a defensive force throughout. He recorded four blocks for the second game in a row and made it nine straight games with at least one block. His 13 rebounds also extended his streak of 12 or more rebounds to five straight games.
The Lakers beat the Timberwolves, but really, that should not be a surprise to anyone. Los Angeles is now two games behind the Houston Rockets for the final playoffs spot and only one game below .500.