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Lakers 90, Timberwolves 79: Anything you can do, I can do worse

The Lakers managed to pull out a victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves, 90 to 79, despite putting out one of their worst offensive performances of the season.  The first half was nothing worth writing home about as the Lakers were sloppy on offense, constantly turning it over and seemingly unable to make a basket.  Lucky for them, their opponent was one of the worst teams in the league and thus the game never got out of reach.  In the second half the Lakers put the clamps down on the defensive end, holding Minnesota to only 34 points, and found enough rhythm offensively to put up 50 points of their own.

The Lakers just came off four impressive wins against some very tough competition.  Their next game is against a Charlotte team that always gives them a fight, followed by the extremely difficult five game stretch against San Antonio, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, and Orlando.  Given the difficult schedule before and after tonight's game you can understand why Lakers may not have been focused from the start.  They Lakers turned the ball over on their first two possessions and missed their first six shot attempts.  Their first basket, an Andrew Bynum putback, didn't come until over four minutes into the game. The Lakers offense did not get much better as they would finish the quarter with only 18 points on 5 of 19 shooting. 

Despite the poor start offensively the Lakers found themselves down only three at the end of the first quarter due to solid defense and rebounding with the help of Minnesota's own struggles shooting the ball.  Bynum was especially effective in the first quarter as he recorded four offensive rebounds, two blocks, and altered a few other shot attempts near the basket.  Bynum kept the game close despite very little help in the first quarter.

In the second quarter the Timberwolves went on a 7-0 run with jumpshots by Anthony Randolph, Jonny Flynn, and Wayne Ellington.  The run stretched the Timberwolves lead to seven.  The Lakers quickly came back with a couple of layups by Artest and two long jumpers by Derek Fisher, eventually taking a two point lead of their own.  The Timberwolves answered back with another seven point spurt with baskets by Luke Ridnour, Wesley Johnson, and Michael Beasley to close the half up five, but it would be all downhill from there for the Timberwolves.

The Lakers regained their focus at halftime and came out with improved effort and focus defensively and they began to find their strokes.  They would outscore the Wolves 25 to 16 in the third quarter led by Kobe Bryant's 12 points.  Kobe finished with a game high, 24 points, and began to turn up the intensity as a small scoring duel emerged between himself and rookie Wesley Johnson.  Johnson led the Timberwolves in scoring with 20 points including eight in the 3rd quarter.  Johnson had very little help during the period and the Wolves found themselves down four going into the fourth quarter.  The final frame was nearly identical as the Lakers used their superior size and talent to take control.  A couple of quick baskets by Shannon Brown and Andrew Bynum effectively put the game out of reach.  The Lakers defense, which has been superb in the second half of games recently, did not allow the Wolves to gain any traction and make a game of it.

While the process was not pretty to watch, and that is an understatement, the result is all that matters.  The Lakers dominated the glass, recording 18 offensive rebounds, gaining the extra shots they needed as they struggled to find the bottom of the net.  They were also extremely efficient from the free throw line, making 25 of their 27 attempts.  They did enough to beat a bad team tonight. The Timberwolves helped out by showing why they are one of the worst teams in the league.  Other than Love, who continued his double double streak with a modest 13 points and 11 rebounds, they have very little offensively.  This is especially true when Micheal Beasley struggles like he did tonight with only 14 points on 6 of 18 shooting.  The Timberwolves simply don't have the talent to keep up with the Lakers, even when the Lakers are having an off night.

Now that the eye-sore that was tonight's game is over, the Lakers can forget about it and focus on the very difficult stretch of games coming up.  They are still two games behind Dallas for the second seed in the West and so a successful road trip will be crucial to any hopes they have of avoiding having to win three playoff series without home court advantage to take home the title.











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