- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Friday had the feeling of a layup, with the Lakers heading into the night against the Timberwolves winners of 19 straight against Minnesota, but you never know with these kinds of games.
"I don’t think this team has ever played that team," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni warned before the game. "I think this is the first time they’ve ever played."
There was the streak, and the fact that the Wolves had lost 10 of 11 going into the night, and the fact that Kevin Love was out of the lineup for Minnesota going for L.A. But then again, the Lakers were without Dwight Howard, who flew back to L.A. to receive platelet-rich plasma therapy on his sore right shoulder, and they had lost their past eight straight away from Staples Center to drop their road record to 5-16, so it wasn't like a win was guaranteed.
After blowing a 13-point fourth-quarter lead in Phoenix, the Lakers hoped to never let Friday become a competition.
But things are never that easy for the Lakers this season, are they?
At least they got the win.
How it happened: The Lakers led by as many as 17 points in the first quarter and 29 in the second, as they went 9-for-11 from 3 as a team to start the game. Ricky Rubio (nine points, seven assists) led a mini Wolves charge to get L.A.'s lead down to 15 by the half. That hot start from 3 turned out to be fool's gold for the Lakers, as Minnesota settled into a zone on defense and dared L.A. to keep it up from the outside. The Lakers finished 12-for-32 from deep and saw their lead cut all the way to four in the fourth before pushing ahead by double digits again at the end.
What it means: That the Lakers have continued to stay committed to sharing the ball -- picking up 27 assists on 39 field goals -- but their defense was still lackadaisical against the Wolves. They need to be more consistent on that end.
Hits: Steve Blake scored all of his 10 points in the first half. His season high going into Friday was just eight points.
Blake was one of six Lakers who scored in double digits, led by Pau Gasol's 22. Antawn Jamison (18 points) kept up his streak of four straight games of 10 points or more off the bench. Earl Clark (13 points, 10 rebounds) picked up his fifth double-double of the past 13 games since his breakout night against the San Antonio Spurs.
Kobe Bryant just missed a triple-double again, this time coming up short on assists with eight to go with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Misses: Minnesota went into the game shooting less than 30 percent as a team from 3 -- by far the worst accuracy in the league -- and shot 10-for-22 against L.A.
Stat of the night: Even though Bryant shot just 4-for-13 for the game, he tied Hakeem Olajuwon for seventh place on the all-time made field goals list with 10,749 for his career.
What's next: The Lakers will practice in Detroit on Saturday as their trip rolls on and play the Pistons in a day game Super Bowl Sunday. L.A. should be able to get past Detroit without Howard, but the Lakers sure would like to have him back against Brooklyn on Tuesday.
3dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne