Timberwolves Limit Bryant, Lakers Late
Minnesota 88, L.A. Lakers 74
MINNEAPOLIS, Nov. 9 (Ticker) -- Facing the league's leading scorer in Kobe Bryant, the Minnesota Timberwolves again responded to coach Dwane Casey's urge for improved defensive play.
Kevin Garnett recovered from a dismal first half to score 17 points and lead a balanced attack as the Timberwolves posted an 88-74 victory over Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The superstar guard keyed an early 11-0 and scored 18 points in the first half, but the Timberwolves worked their way back and tied it at 45-45 at halftime.
Behind their defense, the Wolves slowly took over in the second half.
"(In the third quarter), we wanted to make sure we pushed Kobe farther out on the floor," Casey said. "When he drove the lane, we wanted to have a guy on him plus two bigs converging on the lane."
After hitting three straight shots late in the third quarter to pull Los Angeles within 64-61, Bryant was held scoreless until he split a pair of free throws to make it 82-70 with 1:54 left.
"We got into a position to get back in the game, but we had a hard time," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "They played good defense. (Trenton) Hassell did a good job on (Kobe). They played good team defense and gave him (Hassell) help with Kobe when he needed it."
"Great 1-on-1 defense will never stop a top scorer (like Bryant)," Garnett said. "You've got to give a team effort and everyone has to be on the same page."
Garnett scored just four points on 2-of-7 shooting in the opening 24 minutes but gave Minnesota the lead for good, 54-53, with a basket midway through the third period. He later capped a 10-2 run with a jumper to make it 62-55 and had four points in an 8-0 burst that was ended by Bryant's free throw.
"In the second half, (Garnett) came back with a vengeance," said Lakers forward Kwame Brown, who had season highs of 10 points and 13 rebounds. "He hit shots over me, I couldn't have played him any better. He did his thing. He's tough to guard. He just keeps coming at you all game."
The Timberwolves had allowed at least 100 points in dropping both ends of a recent two-game road trip. They have given up a total of 152 in two wins since.
"They did a good job of covering for each other," Los Angeles center Chris Mihm said. "Anytime you play good team defense, you're going to give yourself a chance to be in the ballgame. We jumped out to a lead, but they stuck with it and made defensive plays to get back in the game."
Minnesota is 3-0 at home for the first time since 2002. It has allowed 79.3 points in the three victories.
"This is a good game, a confidence-builder," Garnett said. "You always want to establish home-court advantage."
In the last two games, the Timberwolves' defense has improved as the game has progressed. After giving up only 33 points in the second half against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, they held the Lakers, the NBA's second-ranked offense, to only 29 after halftime Wednesday.
Eddie Griffin came off the bench to score 13 points and fellow reserve Troy Hudson added 10. Minnesota's bench outscored Los Angeles', 36-19.
"We had a good first quarter," Jackson said. "But we let them back in the game with their second unit. (Guard Rashad McCants), Griffin, Hudson came in and played very well in the second quarter."
Bryant finished with 28 points and Lamar Odom added 15 for the Lakers. Point guard Smush Parker, who had at least 20 points in three of his first four games, was held scoreless on 0-of-4 shooting.
"That's not (Parker's) fault," Jackson said. "Smush didn't get any shots in the first half. I got on his teammates for not getting him the ball."
Los Angeles fell to 1-1 on its five-game trip with its first road loss this season.