Well thank goodness for that 29-point lead! Otherwise, who knows how this game would have ended for the Lakers.
Coming off a should’ve-won loss in Phoenix, the Lakers arrived in Minnesota still without a road win in 2013 and without Dwight Howard. Howard, who re-aggravated his shoulder injury against Suns, flew back to Los Angeles to be treated. Subbing in for him was, naturally, Pau Gasol, back in the starting line-up after a stretch of games coming off the bench.
The Lakers started red-hot, shooting 68% in the first quarter, en route to a 68-point half. They led by as much as 29 points before the break…and then the two quarters after halftime began. After pounding the Kevin Love-less Timberwolves with two 30+ point quarters, the Lakers entered the third a whole new team, and not in a good way. They allowed the T-Wolves to get as close as four points from the lead, with still six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Antawn Jamison and Pau Gasol, however, chipped in nine points apiece to close the game and the Lakers escaped, 111-100.
Hot Start – And by hot, I mean scorching. 15-22 for a 37-point first quarter, led by Gasol’s 13 points (including a three). By halftime, the Lakers had scored 68 points on 56% from the field, and 10-20 from downtown. 10 three-pointers in the first half and four players already in double figures.
Clean First Half – When the ball moves freely and purposefully, there is less chance of losing it. In the first two quarters, the Lakers had 18 assists on 27 made field goals, which led to just three turnovers.
Glasswork – Even without Dwight Howard, the Lakers outrebounded the Timberwolves in a big way, 57-40. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol each grabbed 12 rebounds and Earl Clark had 10. Steve Nash, Metta World Peace and Antawn Jamison each had seven boards for the night.
Balance – Everyone did a little bit of everything in this game, and it is essentially how the Lakers managed to get the win, despite the lost lead. Six players finished with double-digit points, led by Gasol’s 22 on 8-15 from the field. Backcourt teammates, Bryant and Nash, chipped in 17 points apiece and Jamison came off the bench to contribute 18 huge points, 15 of which he scored in the second half. As for the role of floor general, Bryant had another big night for assists, handing out eight, with Nash next in line with seven dimes.
Cold Finish – What goes up must come down? What starts hot, must get cold, because as efficient as they were in the first half, it was the exact opposite in the second half. Minnesota started zoning up and suddenly the Lakers didn’t know what to do. They didn’t score their first field goal in the third quarter until Nash hit a three with more than six minutes gone in the first half. They went just 3-19 from the field in the third quarter – 16%! When the fourth corner came around, the lead was down to just nine points. The final quarter wasn’t much better. They still shot just 9-25 from the field, and 27% in the second half. And despite shooting just 40% themselves, the TWolves gave the Lakers a fight until the end.
Careless Second Half – After just three turnovers in the first half, the Lakers gave away 10 possessions in the final two quarters. Interior Defense (ok fine, defense in genera) – Without Howard guarding the paint, the TWolves managed to score 46 points inside, compared to the Lakers’ 38.
They never learn, do they? The Lakers have given away large leads a handful of times this season, and it’s baffling how their mentality and focus dims before the game is even over. This could have been another disappointing loss, but they survived and must now turn their heads to an 18-29 Detroit Pistons team. As evidenced this season, the record of their opponent is a useless scouting tool. If the Lakers want to come out of this road trip successfully, they need to play from tip-off to the final buzzer.