Lakers Gameday | 12/11/09 | Timberwolves
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Lakers win 11th straight, Bryant injures finger
By GREG BEACHAM
Posted Dec 12 2009 1:02AM
LOS ANGELES(AP) Kobe Bryant scored 20 points while playing with a small break in his finger, and the Los Angeles Lakers wrapped up the generous portion of their schedule with their 11th straight victory, 104-92 over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.
Pau Gasol had 17 points and a career-high 20 rebounds for the defending champions, who improved the NBA's best record to 18-3 while finishing a season-opening stretch with 17 of their first 21 games at home. Ron Artest scored 16 points and Lamar Odom added 13 for Los Angeles, which hasn't lost since Nov. 15.
Yet the Lakers also got a scare when Bryant hurt the index finger on his right hand while reaching for a pass late in the first quarter. Bryant has an avulsion fracture, in which a small piece of bone tears away near a ligament or tendon.
``It's pretty painful,'' Bryant said. ``I just tried to play through it.''
He got taped up on the bench and returned briefly in the second quarter, but then went to the locker room until returning after halftime with the finger fully wrapped.
It's too soon to tell how the injury will affect Bryant, who was dogged by a nagging pinky injury for most of the past two seasons. The NBA's second-leading scorer appeared to play with relative ease after the injury in Los Angeles' ninth straight victory over the Timberwolves.
Al Jefferson had 24 points and 13 rebounds as Minnesota lost for the fifth time in six games to drop to 3-20 under rookie coach Kurt Rambis, who picked up last summer's NBA championship ring from his longtime employers before the game.
The Lakers' exceptionally kind early season schedule officially ended with their seventh consecutive home win over the Timberwolves and their first 11-game winning streak since late in the 2003-04 season. With more than 41 percent of their regular-season home schedule already finished, the Lakers will open a five-game road trip at Utah on Saturday night - their first game outside California since Nov. 13.
Ramon Sessions scored 15 points for the Timberwolves, whose lively play couldn't overcome 17 turnovers. Former UCLA star Kevin Love had an uneven debut in the starting lineup, matching his career high with 19 rebounds but managing just seven points on 3-of-14 shooting.
Minnesota made an impressive run during Bryant's absence, with Sessions making six consecutive shots to keep Los Angeles' halftime lead to two points. Bryant hit a 3-pointer and two more baskets in the opening minutes of the second half, propelling the Lakers back ahead.
Los Angeles then scored the final 12 points of the third quarter to take an 86-68 lead. Bryant stayed in the game until midway through the fourth quarter.
Rambis received his ring and a warm ovation from the Staples Center crowd before the game. The longtime Lakers forward and assistant coach accepted the task of rebuilding the Timberwolves last summer, bringing the triangle offense to Minneapolis with little success so far.
``There's been such a long time from when we actually won 'til now, that all those emotions have kind of gone away,'' Rambis said. ``But it's always good to get it, because it signifies a lot. It's good to show my family, and add it to the others in the attic somewhere.''
NOTES: The Lakers still haven't lost since Gasol's return from injury, going 10-0. ... Longtime Utah Jazz broadcaster Hot Rod Hundley joined the Lakers' television team for the first of six games filling in for regular color commentator Stu Lantz. ... Rambis played nine seasons for the Lakers, winning four titles, before winning two more rings during seven seasons during this decade as an assistant coach.
Copyright 2009 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
Lakers’ Coach Phil Jackson on how Kobe got injured:
“Not a good entrance pass... He reached over extra for it and popped it.”
On Kobe’s play after getting hurt:
“It was fine. Right at that moment when I put him back in, after he got it taped or whatever, you could tell he didn’t want to touch the ball with that hand. Then we went and got some X Rays, came back and played ball the second half.”
On Kobe’s team play post-injury:
“That’s definitely not unusual. He’s not going to let something like that hamper the team’s effort and that’s remarkable to think about.”
On Sasha Vujacic tonight:
“He did a good job. I’ve got a situation out there in which a lot of our guys were hesitant to shoot the ball. We needed somebody to go out there and shoot the ball because of attacking them defensively. Guys were moving the ball and not taking the shots in the rhythm of the offense and Sasha did a good job that way.”
On Minnesota tonight:
“They hustled. They worked hard. They couldn’t really accomplish anything in the third quarter and we were able to break it open and survive the game.”
Evaluation of the team up until now:
“There’s only a loss here or two I could say that I was disappointed in how we played the game, the Houston game. Dallas game it was early; those things will happen early in the season. It was our was it second home game. The Houston loss I thought was a difficult one for us. Probably should have had that game. But other than that, we did a good job on our home court. Set ourselves up for the road schedule now. We got to go out and play those games; they’re more difficult and keep doing things and find a way to win.”
Lakers’ Kobe Bryant on Kurt Rambis and the job he is doing with the T’Wolves:
“They played hard. Every game they play hard and I think that’s a testament to his coaching. Everything is sinking in.”
On playing with a splint on his injured right index finger:
“Yeah, you just get used to it. That’s all. It’s just a different technique to shoot the ball with this (splint).”
On using his left hand:
“It worked out. The debate – who has a better left hand between me and Pau – is over. There’s no contest. No contest.”
Lakers’ Lamar Odom on Kurt Rambis and the job he is doing with the T’Wolves:
“Kurt has them playing hard, playing tough. They’re doing a good job responding to his coaching style, which is cool to see.”
On the current state of the Lakers:
“There’s games when we play great but we still can play better. That’s how good we feel like we are as a team, how deep we are. I think we did a good job when we needed to, gained some separation and put the game away.”
On the Lakers’ mentality:
“Every night the goal is to win. Sometimes you have to win ugly. Sometimes you have to win the games when you don’t shoot the ball well.”
Lakers’ Ron Artest on the Lakers’ performance on both sides of the court:
“I know we’re playing pretty good defense. Today the offense – we missed a lot of shots. We need to rebound a little better and make some shots.”
On tonight’s game:
“We just played hard and stayed with it. It was close and we continued to grind it out.”
Timberwolves’ Coach Kurt Rambis on coaching against the Lakers’ for the first time:
“Well I actually enjoyed it. It’s really good to see the whole team together and it was nice to get a very warm reception from the fans and the players and it was fun to compete against them and to try to figure out how to stop a very dominant team. They have so many weapons, they’re so long. They have such tremendous length. I thought our guys did a really good job and a lot of times, through most of the game, in their defensive execution. We did the things that we wanted to do but there were second chance points and they do a great job of passing the basketball. It’s just tough to stop all those weapons”
On why the Timberwolves’ competitive edge slipped away in the 4th quarter:
“Well that’s the mark of who we are as a ball club. We’re learning, we’re getting better. We’re a lot better today than we were two and half, three weeks ago. So I’m very proud of our improvement as a ball club but when other things start to go wrong, they keep doubting themselves. A turnover here, a fumbled pass there, poor execution…a couple of shots or lay ups by the Lakers and the tide turns. They go on these 12-0 runs and all of a sudden, our guys are hanging their heads. So it’s my job to get them back organized and thinking positive again. I liked the way that they were competing, it’s just that they were competing against the best team in the world.”
On whether the Lakers are a better defensive team with Ron Artest:
“I don’t know about that. He’s just a little bit different. He’s so crafty and he’s such a unique defensive player because he’s so strong, he can really lock people in. And because of his foot speed and his hand speed and his strength, he can guard probably four positions out there on the court. And he came back after he stole the ball one time from Jonny Flynn. He had read Jonny perfectly. Jonny was just laughing and I said ‘You just learned something today Jonny.” That’s what I want our guys to do. To be able to play against these guys. Jonny’s never played against Ron Artest before and it’s a learning experience for him. Ron brings a whole new dimension with his strength, his power, and his rebounding capability and he’s able to knock down some outside shots. He’s a little different from Trevor [Ariza] but with his uniqueness, he just adds another weapon to the already loaded arsenal that they have.”
Timberwolves’ Kevin Love on tonight’s game:
“We went on our little drought in the third quarter like we have been doing. We are a young, inexperienced team and they are the Los Angeles Lakers.”
On playing the Lakers:
“It was tough, they are the defending champions. I thought we played them well three and a half quarters. We slipped up and let them get a little bit of a run. They are the Los Angeles Lakers and they know what they are doing.”
On the third quarter:
“We just missed shots, me included I shot a terrible percentage. They just took advantage of that. Ron Artest got his hands on a lot of balls as did numerous guys on the team. Bynum and Gasol did a great job tonight.”
On whether he enjoys playing the Lakers:
“Oh yea. I mean if you cannot get up for a game like this, then you might as well pack it up and go home. We were up with them but then our inexperience showed.”
Timberwolves’ Al Jefferson on what happened in the third quarter:
“The game changed around. They went on a 12-0 run in the third quarter and that made the difference.”
“We played really well. We cannot be completely satisfied because we lost, but we did a great job. We had a chance and we were in the game, but we needed to stop them and play some defense in the third quarter. If we had done that things would have been a lot tighter in the fourth quarter and we might have found a way to win. But for the most part I thought we played well.”
Lakers vs. Timberwolves Game Preview
By MATT BECKER
Posted Dec 10 2009 11:54AM
The Minnesota Timberwolves hired Kurt Rambis as their coach hoping he could build a winning tradition similar to the one he enjoyed with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Rambis has struggled to get Minnesota turned around, and his old team looks as good as ever.
In his first game coaching against the Lakers, Rambis tries to somehow help the lowly Timberwolves stop Los Angeles from winning 11 straight games for the first time in more than five years Friday night at Staples Center.
Rambis, a Californian who spent nine seasons with the Lakers during his 14-year playing career, won four titles with the franchise as a rugged forward - not to mention a fan favorite - and two more as an assistant. He was on Phil Jackson's coaching staff last season during the Lakers' run to a title and will receive that championship ring prior to the start of this game.
Long considered a possible heir apparent to Jackson in Los Angeles (17-3), Rambis filled in on several occasions while the coach was out with medical issues. He also served as the coach in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, going 24-13.
"I left an incredible job in Los Angeles," Rambis said upon being named Timberwolves coach. "That team has a chance to win several NBA championships, but when an opportunity like this comes along, to build a team like I envision and playing a style of ball I would like to teach, to work with quality individuals we already have, it could not be passed up."
Rambis has a strong reputation of developing young players, and Minnesota decided to hire him in hopes of transforming a struggling franchise into a contender. This hasn't been easy.
With a core of Jonny Flynn, Al Jefferson and Kevin Love - all 24 years old or younger - the Timberwolves (3-19) own the second-worst record in the NBA. They're at the bottom of the Western Conference while Los Angeles is at the top, entering this matchup looking to win 11 in a row for the first time since March 13-April 2, 2004.
While Los Angeles is riding its second 10-game winning streak in three years, Minnesota endured a 15-game slide earlier this season and is coming off a particularly tough loss.
Minnesota, which hasn't been to the playoffs since losing to the Lakers in the 2004 conference finals, blew a 16-point lead in the second half Wednesday and lost 97-96 to New Orleans.
With the Hornets down one with 3.9 seconds to go, Chris Paul threw an inbounds pass to David West. As Flynn turned his head, Paul raced past the Wolves rookie to the basket and took a backdoor feed from West, hitting the winning layup with 1.4 seconds left.
"All these situations that we go through in games are all learning experiences for (Flynn)," Rambis said. "I've been involved with so many young players that go through this, and a lot of your lessons are painful. As long as a player is receptive and as long as a player continues to work hard, which he has, he's going to learn from these mistakes. They hurt and sting, but you learn from them."
While Minnesota folded in the fourth quarter Wednesday, the Lakers held Utah to six points on 2-for-18 shooting in the final period en route to a 101-77 victory.
"I guess there's a little bit of credit to ourselves, but they were really out of whack," said Pau Gasol, who had 19 points and 12 rebounds. "They didn't get the shots they got in the first three quarters. We got the momentum and just started putting plays together."
Most of the victories during this run have been easy, with the Lakers winning by an average of 16.2 points. The only game that was decided by less than 10 points was last Friday's 108-107 win over Miami on Kobe Bryant's self-acknowledged lucky 3-pointer that banked in at the buzzer.
Bryant scored 27 points Wednesday and is averaging 30.7 in his last nine games against Minnesota.
The Lakers have reeled off eight consecutive victories over the Timberwolves since a 117-107 double-overtime loss March 6, 2007. They've also won the last six meetings at Staples Center.
Copyright 2009 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
DJMbenga (sprained right ankle)is day-to-day.
Luke Walton (pinched nerve, back) is out.
Nathan Jawai (Illness) is questionable.
SEASON & SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers swept last season’s series with Minnesota 4-0 after taking the 2007-08 series 3- 0. This will be the 78th meeting between the two franchises with Los Angeles holding a 56- 21 advantage. The Lakers are 9-1 in their last 10 meetings with the Timberwolves and have won 8 straight overall. At STAPLES Center, the Lakers are 15-4 all-time against the Timberwolves, are 8-2 in their last 10 and have won their last six straight. In Minnesota, the Lakers are 6-4 in their last 10 road games but have won four straight at Target Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 23-12 against Minnesota. In 46 career games including 38 starts, Bryant is averaging 23.4 points versus Minnesota. In their last trip to Minnesota (2/22/09), Bryant surpassed Elgin Baylor for 20th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. In 2007, Bryant scored 50 points 3/18/07 vs. MIN, becoming the first Laker since Elgin Baylor in December of 1962 to post consecutive 50-point games as well as the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1963 to follow a 60-plus point scoring night with 50-plus points. Additionally, Bryant’s 50-point effort matched Cedric Ceballos’ series record 50-point game posted on December 20, 1994. Minnesota head coach Kurt Rambis played nine seasons with the Lakers, averaging 4.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 569 games while winning four NBA Championships (1982,’85,’87,’88). Most recently, Rambis served as an assistant coach on Phil Jackson’s bench from 2001-04 and 2005-09, helping lead the team to two NBA titles (2002, ’09). Timberwolves assistant coach Dave Wohl served as a Lakers assistant coach in Rambis’ playing days on Pat Riley’s staff from 1982-85. Minnesota big men Kevin Love and Ryan Hollins both played collegiately at UCLA. Hollins played alongside Lakers guard Jordan Farmar with the Bruins for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. Additionally, the Lakers and Timberwolves have met once in the postseason during the first round of the 2003 Playoffs. Los Angeles defeated the Wolves 4-2 despite Minnesota holding home-court advantage. No Timberwolves remain from their 2002-03 roster while Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher are the only current Lakers who played in that series.
With their victory over the Jazz December 9th, the Lakers won for the 10th straight time, further surpassing their longest win streak from a season ago when the Lakers strung together 7-straight victories on three occasions, most recently from 1/30/09 – 2/10/09. The victory marked the 24th time in franchise history that the team has put together a 10+ game win streak (20 in Los Angeles, 4 in Minneapolis). Prior to the current 10-game win streak, the Lakers last won 10 straight games from 2/8/08 – 2/28/08 during the 2007-08 campaign. The Lakers last 11-game win streak came during the 2003-04 season from March 13 – April 2, 2004. The Lakers have not won 12 straight games since a streak of 19 consecutive victories from February 4 – March 13, 2000, part of a 19-game streak that ranks as the 2nd longest in team history.
LAKERS PLAY STINGIEST DEFENSIVE 4TH QUARTER IN FRANCHISE HISTORY (SHOT CLOCK ERA)
Leading by two entering the 4th quarter of their December 9th contest with Utah, the Lakers played the best defensive 4th quarter in franchise history (shot clock era), holding the Jazz to the third fewest 4th quarter points (6) in the NBA’s shot clock era. During the period, the Lakers forced nine turnovers, including three shot clock violations in a three minute span, while limiting the Jazz to just 2-of-18 shooting from the field. Only the Warriors (2 points, 2/8/04) and the Trail Blazers (5 points, 3/15/06) have scored fewer points in a 4th quarter than what the Lakers limited the Jazz to (7th time a team has scored six 4th quarter points). Overall, the Jazz’s six fourth quarter points were the fewest points in any quarter the Lakers have surrendered since holding the Los Angeles Clippers to three points in the second quarter of 95-68 victory 12/14/99. The franchise record for fewest points allowed in any quarter is two, established in the third quarter of the Lakers 87-80 victory vs. Dallas 4/6/97.
JUST ADD GASOL
Since Pau Gasol made his season debut 11/19 vs. Chicago, the Lakers are 9-0 while defeating teams by an average of 16.6 points per game (149). Additionally, with Gasol’s return, all five starters have scored in double-figures three times whereas in the previous 11 games without him in the lineup, not once did that occur. In games played without Gasol since he joined the Lakers, Los Angeles is 15-7 overall (6-4 in 2007-08, 1-0 in 2008-09 and 8-3 in 2009-10). With Gasol in the lineup, the Lakers are 95-22 (.812) in the regular season since he joined the team in February of 2008 (22-5 in 2007-08, 64-17 in 2008-09 and 9-0 in 2009-10) and 30-14 (.682) in the playoffs.
3-TIME ALL STAR GAME MVP KOBE BRYANT LEADS ALL PLAYERS AFTER 1st ROUND OF ALL-STAR BALLOTING
On December 10th, the NBA announced its FIRST returns of 2010 NBA All-Star balloting with Kobe Bryant (692,518) LEADING all players in All-Star voting, ahead of Miami’s Dwyane Wade (672,227) and Cleveland’s LeBron James (649,327). In the West, Denver’s Carmelo Anthony (588,958) and Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki (366,300) are the top two vote-getters at forward, Bryant and Houston’s Tracy McGrady (281,545) lead the guard voting and Phoenix’s Amar’e Stoudemire (447,776) leads the center voting. In the East, James and Boston’s Kevin Garnett (533,187) lead the forward voting, Wade and Orlando’s Vince Carter (292,002) are the top two vote-getters at guard and Dwight Howard (625,279) least all Eastern Conference centers in balloting.
Pau Gasol (280,758), who made his second All-Star team last season as a reserve and became the 27th Laker in franchise history to be name an All-Star, ranks 3rd in balloting among West forwards behind Anthony and Nowitzki but ahead of San Antonio’s Tim Duncan (271,321) and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (177,205) while Andrew Bynum (299,484) ranks 2nd among West centers behind Stoudemire but ahead of Denver’s Nene (90,439).
In each of the last two seasons, Bryant has led the Western Conference in all-star balloting. Last season, he accumulated 2,805,397 votes, finishing third in overall balloting behind Dwight Howard (3,150,181) and LeBron James (2,940,823). In 2007-08, Bryant garnered 2,004,940 votes to finish fourth in overall voting behind Kevin Garnett (2,399,148), James (2,108,831) and Howard (2,066,991). In 2006-07, when he earned his second All-Star MVP, Bryant finished third overall in balloting behind James and Yao Ming. A three-time All-Star MVP (2002 Philadelphia, 2007 Las Vegas, 2009 Phoenix), Bryant is an 11-time All-Star and has started 11 consecutive All-Star games. Bryant, who was the youngest All-Star in NBA history in 1998, led all players in NBA All-Star balloting in 2003.
Friday’s game against the Timberwolves will be the first of a back-to-back set with Minnesota and Utah. This season, the Lakers are 3-0 in the first game and 2-1 in the second game of back-to-backs. On the year, the Lakers will play 20 sets of back-to-back games, the most the team has played in a single season since playing 22 sets of back-to-backs during the 1999-00 campaign. Last year, the Lakers played 19 sets of back-to-backs, going 14-5 in the first game and 14-5 in the second as well. Charlotte, Detroit and Milwaukee lead the league with 23 back-to-backs each in 2009-10 while New Orleans (15) and San Antonio (17) will play the fewest sets this season.