Wolves vs. Lakers Gameday
Final: 132-119 Lakers
The Lakers ran away with this game in the third quarter with the impressive play of Bynum in the post. Bynum scored 27 points and Gasol added 21 to give the Lakers a big advantage in the paint for most of the night. Bryant hit two key jumpers late in the quarter after the Wolves tried to mount a comeback. The MVP finished with 30 points and eight boards to help lead Los Angeles to its 36th victory of the season. The Lakers shot 50.5 percent from the field while holding Minnesota to 42.7 percent. Jefferson led the Wolves with 34 points, Foye scored 27, and Telfair dished out seven assists in the loss. Minnesota fell for only the fourth time this month and 16-29 on the season.
Third Quarter: 100-85 Lakers
Coming out of the locker room, Los Angeles increased its defensive intensity to outscore the Wolves 36-24 in the period. Meanwhile, the Lakers offense exploded as the team went on a 13-6 run and eventually end the third quarter with a 15-point lead. Bryant scored 11 points in the quarter and Bynum continues to dominate inside the paint. Bynum is 8-for-13 from the field with 23 points and 13 boards. Los Angeles reached the free throw line 16 times, an obvious display of aggressive basketball. Jefferson has worked extremely hard for his 18 points with Bynum playing top notch defense. The Wolves frontcourt is also dealing with foul trouble. Smith and Jefferson have four fouls while Love was tagged with his third foul early in the quarter.
Halftime: 64-60 Lakers
The Wolves remained fairly close to the Lakers throughout the second period. Los Angeles utilized its deep bench for most of the second quarter with Odom, Farmar, Vujacic and Ariza. Odom struggled in only seven minutes of play and had to take a seat on the bench with three early fouls. Farmar hit from the outside along with several drives to the basket. The former UCLA guard scored eight points in the half. The Lakers then brought back Bynum and Bryant at the 6:37 mark of the second quarter. Bynum is off to a fantastic start to the game and helped Los Angeles dominate the points in the paint 32-24. With 17 points, Bynum is on his way to another great game after winning Western Conference Player of the Week honors. His defense also slowed Jefferson’s production as he shot 5-for-13. Gomes has been the most important player for the Wolves with his 14 points and defensive pressure on Bryant. After scoring 12 first quarter points, Bryant was held to only two points in the second quarter. The high-scoring, fast pace style favors the offensive minded Lakers but Minnesota found ways to score points in the open floor to keep up with Los Angeles. The Wolves closed the half with a 7-2 run, which should give them confidence heading into the second half.
First Quarter: 33-31 Lakers
The Lakers went to work early with the focus on Bynum in the post. The 7-footer carved out deep position in the paint and scored eight points in the quarter. Bryant then forced McHale to make some coaching adjustments. No.24 used his size advantage to hit a fadeway jumper off the glass at the 10:20 mark as Los Angeles jumped out to a 9-2 start. With Bryant connecting on several mid-range jump shots, McHale brought Miller off the bench to replace Foye. Gomes then took the challenge of guarding Bryant, while Miller defended Walton. The change to the lineup jumpstarted the Wolves to a 20-10 run and Telfair gave Minnesota the lead with 2:34 remaining in the period. For the Lakers, Bryant led the team with 12 points. Jefferson and Gomes scored eight points a piece for the Wolves. Both teams played a high scoring first quarter but Los Angeles shot 58.3 percent from the field.
Lakers Shootaround Audio
Wolves Shootaround Audio
Despite the contrast in overall records, the Lakers and Wolves are two teams with 10 victories in the month of January. Minnesota will enter the home game tonight against Los Angeles with a new sense of confidence in comparison to the loss on December 14 to the Lakers. In the third quarter of the first meeting, the Wolves only trailed by six points but Los Angeles used a 6-0 run to snag the 98-86 victory at the Staples Center. The Lakers lengthy frontcourt caused problems all night for Minnesota while forcing the Wolves to only shoot 36 percent from the field. Minnesota had several opportunities inside the lane but could not finish and fell for the ninth straight game.
The Lakers had a four-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday night. Charlotte upset Los Angeles 117-110 in double overtime after Kobe Bryant fouled out for the first time this season. The Lakers suffered their fourth home loss of the season and have not played a game since the Tuesday defeat. Los Angeles still maintains the best record in the Western Conference and the top scoring offense with 107.7 points a game. With a 35-9 overall record, the Lakers are considered one of the elite teams in the league and primed for another run to the NBA Finals.
The Wolves have changed the backcourt-starting lineup since the first contest against the Lakers. Sebastian Telfair will now defend Derek Fisher at the point guard position. Fisher was a non-factor from a scoring perspective with six points in the December 14 game. Telfair should expect a more aggressive approach from Fisher at the Target Center tonight. Fisher is a knockdown 3-pointer shooter by hitting 44.1 percent and he will play tight defense on Telfair, especially as the Wolves guard deals with a nagging thigh injury. Mike Miller no longer starts at shooting guard, which places Randy Foye in the limelight against reigning MVP Kobe Bryant. Foye only shot 2-for-12 in the first meeting in Los Angeles and Bryant scored 26 points to lead the Lakers. Bryant's numbers have increased throughout the season as he averages 26.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in 2008-09. There is no defensive game plan stop Bryant from scoring but the focus for the Wolves is to limit his impact on the contest tonight. Bryant can shoot from any spot on the floor and can beat any defense Minnesota throws at him. An exceptional defender, Bryant will also apply heavy pressure on Foye. The past two seasons, the Lakers have been a highly successful team due to the all-around game from Bryant. When he involves the rest of his teammates, Los Angeles becomes an even more dangerous offensive team as opposing defenses collapse on him. One of the best scoring guards in the history of the league, Bryant is nearly unstoppable and Foye will have an extremely difficult challenge on defense tonight.
The frontcourt features two 7-footers and the 6-foot-8 Luke Walton at small forward. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined for 32 points and 20 boards in the first meeting. Gasol is a skilled big-man at the power forward position. This season, Gasol averages 17.3 points a game and just earned a spot on the Western Conference All-Star roster. Offensively, Gasol owns a variety of moves with his back to the basket and facing-up against the opposition. The Lakers rely on Gasol as the key component to the famous triangle offense. He will catch the ball at the free throw line and either look to pass off to slashing guards or take a jumper from 16-feet. Los Angeles will utilize Gasol on the pick-and-roll, which opens several scoring opportunities for the rest of the team. Off the bench, Kevin Love will play an important role for the Wolves tonight. Love is an improved player at this stage of the season and he will mix it up in the paint against the Lakers frontcourt. Al Jefferson and Bynum will battle at the center position. Jefferson will play with a chip on his shoulder after being snubbed for a reserve spot on the Western Conference All-Star roster. On the other side, Bynum earned Western Conference player of the week honors and is gaining confidence in his fourth season. Averaging 13.9 points and 8.2 boards, Bynum occupies a lot of space inside the paint. Los Angeles does not isolate Bynum on the offensive side of the floor as he looks for rebounds and easy buckets around the rim. Bynum has not developed post moves but will be a challenge defensively for the Wolves because of his size.
Both teams are looking to bounce back after losses earlier this week. Los Angeles features the most talented roster from top to bottom in the league. With Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, Jordan Farmar, Vladimir Radmanovic, and Sasha Vujacic, the Lakers form a deep second unit. The Wolves will need to play a physical style of basketball and get off to a good start tonight. The one knock on this Los Angeles team is its toughness, which was clearly the reason the Lakers fell to the Celtics last year in the Finals. Los Angeles holds a 12-5 road record while the Wolves are 8-14 at home, tipoff set for 7 PM at the Target Center.
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