When the All Star game reserves were announced yesterday, one of the most mentioned snubs was Minnesota’s Al Jefferson. If Andrew Bynum keeps playing like this you can add him to that list.
Bynum pushed Jefferson around and finished with 27 points on 10 of 15 shooting, plus grabbed 15 boards leading a Lakers team that was too tall, too long and had way many weapons for a Timberwolves squad that isn’t a defensive power to begin with. The Lakers scored a season high in the 132-119 win.
Los Angeles shot 50.5% for the game and seven Lakers finished in double digits scoring led by Kobe’s 30. Pau Gasol added 21 and got to the line 12 times. Trevor Ariza only had eight points but the fact he played at all, cleared by doctors after a recent concussion, was a good sign for a Lakers team on the first game of a long road trip.
From the start the Lakers game plan was obvious — pound the ball inside. Bynum (as he has the last few games) ran down the floor and early in the shot clock got deep position on the block, and from there nobody, All Star or not, is going to keep him from scoring. Meanwhile 7-0 Gasol was being covered by 6-7 Craig Smith, one mismatch the Lakers kept expoiting. Kobe also came out trying to make up for fouling out against Charlotte and had 12 first-quarter points.
The Lakers took a lead but were never completely able to pull away in the first half because Minnesota grabbed nine offensive rebounds and got to the line 15 times in the half. Jefferson was the leader for the T-Wolves and finished the game with 34 points.
In the third quarter the Lakers went to their strength, with the combo of Bynum and Gasol dominating the Timberwolves inside. A series of mini-runs capped by a 9-0 spurt midway through pretty much put the game out of reach. Minnesota, to their credit, never gave up but never seriously challenged again.
Former UCLA Bruin Kevin Love showed the growth in his game at the NBA level, scoring 14 points of 5 of 8 shooting and adding nine rebounds. He also learned that covering the versatile Gasol is a challenge, as the Spaniard drove at Love all night and eventually got him to foul out halfway through the fourth quarter. Gasol was +19 when Love was on him.
After the game the Lakers hoped on a charter flight to Memphis where they play Saturday evening.