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GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Box Score Los Angeles Lakers 26 24 41 29 120
Play by Play Minnesota Timberwolves 23 23 33 28 117
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Lakers win 22nd straight against Wolves 120-117

By JON KRAWCZYNSKI


Posted Mar 27 2013 10:40PM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Kobe Bryant looks just fine at playing small forward. Bryant had 31 points and seven assists in his first game there filling in for the injured Metta World Peace to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 120-117 victory over Minnesota on Wednesday night, their 22nd straight win over the Timberwolves.

Dwight Howard had 25 points, 16 rebounds, five blocks and five steals, and Pau Gasol added 17 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who had lost three in a row and were playing their first game without their defensive stopper. World Peace will have surgery on a torn meniscus on Thursday, leaving the Lakers to chase the playoffs without him.

Nikola Pekovic had 19 points and 16 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who haven't beaten the Lakers since March 2007. That was before injured All-Star Kevin Love was even in college.

Down 14 with six minutes to go, the Wolves used "Hack-a-Dwight" to cut back into the lead. Howard went 2 for 8 and Chase Budinger's putback made the score 114-111 with just over a minute to play.

But Bryant hit a pull-up jumper from 22 feet and his free throw gave the Lakers a three-point lead with 3.4 seconds to go. He missed the second shot, and Ricky Rubio raced back the other way and launched a shot at the buzzer that missed.

Replays appeared to show Bryant fouling Rubio, but there was no call.

Rubio stormed off the court and the Lakers walked off a winner. Again.

Lakers fans usually come out to the Target Center in full force, with few of them using the excuse that the franchise started in Minneapolis before moving out west in 1960. But the bandwagon was a little more subdued on Wednesday night as they watched a star-studded team that just has never been able to put it all together this season try to weather another significant injury.

They started the night clinging to the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race, just one game ahead of Utah and Dallas.

The Lakers found out earlier in the day that World Peace needed surgery on his left knee and will be out a minimum of six weeks. For a team barely hanging on to the playoffs in the Western Conference, just about the last thing they could afford to lose - outside of Bryant and Howard, of course - was their best perimeter defender.

The injury pushes Bryant from shooting guard to small forward, a more physically demanding position for his banged-up body, especially on defense. Bryant was harassed by Andrei Kirilenko on the offensive end, and it took him a little time to adjust to the bigger, stronger approach. He turned the ball over three times in the first quarter and missed his first three shots before exploding to the rim for a dunk at the end of the period.

Howard got off to a monster start, neutralizing Pekovic after a big first quarter and controlling the boards. And when he picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter, Bryant made his move. He scored 16 points in a 41-point period for the Lakers, finishing it off with a quick-trigger 3-pointer in Kirilenko's face that gave Los Angeles a 14-point lead.

Antawn Jamison had 18 points and five rebounds and Steve Nash added 16 points and eight assists for the Lakers.

Budinger had 14 points and nine boards for the Wolves.

NOTES: Bryant is now 35 points from tying Wilt Chamberlain for fourth on the career scoring list. ... The NBA announced that Warriors F David Lee was retroactively assessed a Flagrant-One foul for the elbow to the mouth that required Howard to get three stitches in his lip. ... The Wolves did make a blunder in the "Hack-a-Dwight" strategy. Luke Ridnour fouled Howard intentionally with under two minutes to play, meaning the Lakers got to choose their shooter. Nash made one of two shots.

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited


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Points Bryant, 31
Rebounds Howard and Pekovic (MIN), 16
Assists Nash, 8
Steals Howard, 5
Blocks Howard, 5
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POSTGAME QUOTES



Mike D'Antoni:

On the fouling of Dwight Howard and not taking him out of the game:
"You think about it all the time but we are not going any place without him getting over that. He is going to get over it, we have faith in him. He'll do it, but he is not going to do it if I keep taking him out."

On Pau Gasol's play:
"Much better, he is getting his legs."

On the non-call on the last play:
"Was I surprised? I was happy, I don't know if I was surprised. I didn't really see it so there you go."

On the absence of Meta World Peace:
"We will miss him but Jodie (Meeks) gave us good minutes and Antawn (Jamison) gave us good minutes. If we can keep those guys going. We have enough guys and it is just one less guy we can count on. Earl (Clark) is going to have to step his game up a little bit. We are going to count on him a little bit more."




Pau Gasol:

"They rebounded the ball well and got some 2nd chance points there especially at the end. Overall, we had better energy tonight and we won the game."

On his returning from his injury:
"I felt like I am getting in better rhythm, better shape. That is my goal. I hope to get a little better every game and feel a little better out there and be more effective. Tonight I improved in comparison to the past few games so I am happy with it."

On the end of the game:
"They decided to foul Dwight (Howard) and he missed some free throws and they got going. They were making some jump shots, got offensive rebounds, put backs. They got themselves back in the game. They got momentum and made it really close."

On the last play:
"I didn't see the replay. It was a tough call any ways. I guess he thought he got fouled but if you get hit in the hand, even if you get hit in the hand, supposedly it is not a foul. The hand is part of the ball so he was complaining about that....I get hit in the hand a lot of times."




Dwight Howard:

"Our energy was a lot better. We played inside out pretty well tonight. We just had a good win. I thought our defense was pretty good tonight."

On his defense tonight:
"I was just trying to be as active I could. Last game, I was a step slow so I just decided tonight to come out and bring as much energy as I could. It just happened that we got the win."

On Gasol's play:
"When you have injuries, you try to get back in to the rhythm it is never easy. I was just happy to see him play better, I was happy to see us all play better. It is just real sad about Meta having to sit out the rest of the season. That is a big loss."

On the last play:
"On the last play, what did I see? I had my eyes closed."

On being fouled at the end:
"It is just a strategy. I think it slows down the other team's rhythm. When it happened, that had a good flow out there. If I make them or miss them, I am going to try to do my best to erase the mistake on defense and just be active, block shots, and rebound and make them pay for fouling me."




Kobe Bryant:

"I am just glad because we won. They obviously disrupted the rhythm of the game a little bit at the end and kind of chipped back into the game."

On Pau's play:
"He is just getting his legs back in game rhythm. It takes a little bit of time but tonight he looked good. He looked like he had his rhythm on his jump shot and his post moves looked good. He is coming along."

On the last shot:
"That's not a foul. They are not calling that...I don't think I got him. That is a tough call to make. I just put my hand there it is not like I went out and smacked him across the arm or anything like that. It is what it is."

What if they would have called a foul:
"We would have went to overtime and won the game. It is as simple as that."

On what they miss Meta World Peace:
"Tenacity, tenacity, he is a ferocious player. He is extremely physical. He gives us that emotional boost when we are out there. There are a lot of games we are lacking energy and a certain physicality. He provides that for us. He really changes the momentum of the game."




Rick Adelman:

Opening statement:
"We had a chance to get back in it but just couldn't get over the hump."

On if he thought it looked like Ricky got fouled on the last play:
"What do you think? I mean come on. First of all the guy should of never gone and tried to block the shot and he did. What are you going to say?"

On if he thought they were in good position when they got Howard in foul trouble early:
"Yeah but they just put Gasol there. They've got two guys that are All-Stars and they aren't very deep right now with their injuries but with Nash, Gasol, Howard and Bryant, it's a pretty good base to build off of and they have veterans that are very good players to in Jamison and Blake. They are still a formable team. We had that one stretch, I don't even remember what quarter it was but we had really good looks and we couldn't make a shot in like eight or nine shots in a row. They were good shots but we just couldn't knock them down. Have to give them credit they kept battling and they got back in it. We have to keep playing that way. We have to get better every game."

On Chase struggling with his outside shot but making up for it by cutting to the basket:
"I thought he played really good. I played him half the game on a back-to-back; he had nine rebounds. I thought his effort was terrific. He is going to make those shots. We had eight guys in double figures; there was a lot of positives about that game. We have to carry it over now into the Oklahoma City game and we just got to keep at it. We want to try and get better. We want to try and see where we are. We lost a tough game but we have to respond on Friday."

On Andrei making Kobe work in the first half but Kobe making lots of shots in the third quarter:
"He made a lot of shots. He rose up and made jump shots; that's what he does. He ended up with 31 points. But I thought Andrei made him work but you know he is going to bust through eventually. "

On Dante's game:
"Made some big shots. We were doing a nice job of executing. Pek was rolling; they had to go after Pek, which left Dante open and he knocked down shots. A lot of guys contributed in this game.




JJ Barea:

On the last play:
That's kind of tough, we had a chance, we gave our self a chance. Ricky had a great look, it just didn't go our way."

On if it was different near the end:
"We kept fighting, putting Dwight Howard on the line helped us. We made some shots and Dante gave us a great lift, made some shots in the 4th quarter and we kept it close."

On if they had a chance after keeping it close early:
"No question, in the 1st half we had a lot of chances, we were having a lot of open shots we just weren't knocking them and we only finished down four. Had we knocked down some shots early in the 1st half it would've been better."




Ricky Rubio:

On if this one was one of the tougher losses:
"Yeah, we were fighting all the way through, it was a back-to-back, we feel in our legs but we're fighting and we're not going to quit. I don't care if we're fighting for playoff or not. We want to win as many games as possible and sometimes it's tough. We're not going to quit and we didn't today. It's hard, hard when it happens that way. We just got to get through that and keep playing hard."

On if the team doesn't get respect:
"We have to earn it, we have to earn our respect. I don't understand how things go sometimes. It's just one, in basketball, play hard, we did and do our things and sometimes it's not fair because we give 100% and sometime we can't control things but we have to improve things we can control."




Chase Budinger:

"It was good to see us fight to the end and we never gave up. It showed a little urgency in us in the last three minutes. We did get lucky with the missed free throws by Dwight Howard but it shows the resilience that this team has and we were never going to give in til the end of the game.

On if he sensed LA getting nervous:
"It kind of looked like they were playing not to lose and we just kept on fighting and attacking them, just chipping away. Ricky got a good look, we all think that he got fouled on the last play but sometimes that happens."

On him getting to the basket more now:
"Yeah, I 'm feeling more confident in attacking the rim and getting to the basket and landing on my knee and not really thinking about it too much. It's a good feeling and each game it's getting better and hopefully I keep progressing and hopefully get that athleticism back, that's the next part, the next phase."

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LAKERS-TIMBERWOLVES PREVIEW

Posted Mar 27 2013 12:02AM

The Los Angeles Lakers' lead for the Western Conference's final playoff spot is down to one game, but they could be facing the right opponent to end a three-game slide.

The Lakers have won 21 straight over the Minnesota Timberwolves heading into Wednesday night's matchup at the Target Center, although they will be without Metta World Peace.

Los Angeles (36-35) is enduring its longest skid since a four-game slide Jan. 17-23. The Lakers won 19 of 26 after that downturn before this current funk.

"We're trying to get into the playoffs right now. That's more of a disappointment," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "But we still have time to figure it out."

Los Angeles hasn't lost to Minnesota (25-44) since a 117-107 double-overtime road defeat March 6, 2007. The 21-game run is the longest current streak in the NBA of one opponent beating another and the second-longest ever for the Lakers, behind their 24-game streak over the Kansas City/Sacramento Kings between 1983-88.

The Lakers will be without World Peace, who injured his left knee in Monday's 109-103 loss at Golden State in the opener of this four-game trip. World Peace said he "felt fluid" in it, and he has been diagnosed with a lateral meniscus tear.

Los Angeles is looking for improvement defensively after allowing Golden State to make 10 of 23 3-pointers. The Lakers are allowing opponents to shoot 42.0 percent from beyond the arc in this slide.

"We just got to maintain our poise and just think about execution and what we're going to do," said Kobe Bryant, who scored 36 on Monday. "You got to look at what teams are doing against us in terms of spreading us out and rolling the big, and now we collapse and we're releasing the shooters. This is about the third game in a row that that's happened to us."

Minnesota may not be the type of team that can expose Los Angeles' perimeter defense. The Timberwolves are shooting an NBA-low 30.0 percent on 3s, although they made a season-high 14 on 26 attempts in Tuesday's 105-82 rout at Detroit.

"We were due for a night like this," reserve J.J. Barea said. "Our starters started getting hot, and we kept the flow going."

Barea matched a season high with 21 points as he made five 3-pointers while Nikola Pekovic needed less than 30 minutes to amass 18 points and 11 rebounds.

The Lakers have used commanding rebounding advantages in their two victories over the Wolves this season. Los Angeles held a 57-40 edge on the glass despite playing without Dwight Howard in a 111-100 road win Feb. 1 and had a 49-35 cushion in a 116-94 victory Feb. 28.

The point guard matchup between 39-year-old Steve Nash and 22-year-old Ricky Rubio also bears watching. Nash has totaled 27 points and 14 assists in the first two matchups and Rubio 22 and 20.

Rubio, however, has not reached double digits in assists in seven straight games. He came close with nine of Minnesota's 26 against the Pistons.

"It was fun to have a game like this," Rubio said. "When shots are going in, it is easier to play."


Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
Probable Starters .
  Lakers    
  #24 Bryant SF #47 Kirilenko  
  #16 GasolPF #7 Williams  
  #12 Howard C #14 Pekovic  
  #20 Meeks SG #13 Ridnour  
  #10 Nash PG #9 Rubio  


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Lakers Kobe Bryant
(severe sprain, left ankle) is probable.
Pau Gasol
(strained plantar fascia, right foot) is probable.
Jordan Hill
(torn labrum, left hip/herniated disc) is out.
Dwight Howard
(torn labrum, right shoulder) is probable.
Antawn Jamison
(sprained right wrist) is probable.
Metta World Peace
(strained left knee) is day-to-day.
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Jazz Chase Budinger
(lateral meniscus tear, left knee) is probable.
Andrei Kirilenko
(strained left calf) is probable.
Malcolm Lee
(right knee, right hip) is out.
Kevin Love
(right hand) is out.
Nikola Pekovic
(abdominal strain) is probable.
Brandon Roy
(right knee) is out indefinitely.
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02/01 - LAL 111 @ MIN 100
02/28 - MIN 94 @ LAL 116
03/27 - LAL @ MIN
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