The Minnesota Timberwolves travel to Los Angeles tonight to face a red-hot Lakers team. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and the Lakers have won ten of their last eleven games and are on the verge of clinching their fourth straight Pacific Division Championship. The Timberwolves, on the other hand, have been struggling; losing their last two games by an average of 19.0 points. The Wolves have not won against the Lakers since March 6, 2007.
Wolves coach Kurt Rambis, a former Lakers player and assistant coach, has had his fair share of struggles since being named the Wolves coach two seasons ago. With a roster full of youth and inexperience and inconsistent play calling, the Wolves have struggled to a 32-119 record. Because of these factors, recent reports have been suggested that Rambis may be on his way out at season’s end. It will be another important off-season for the Wolves with the uncertainty surrounding their head coach and their future franchise player – Ricky Rubio.
The Lakers got off to an early 13-9 lead with Lakers Pau Gasol’s 15 foot jumper. Gasol was very aggressive on both ends – blocking three shots, including back to back blocks on Wolves’ forwards Michael Beasley and Love. Love, who has had his struggles against the length of the Lakers in the past, paced the Wolves with six rebounds and shot 1-4 from the field. Love’s lay-up with 2:20 left to go in the first quarter gave the Wolves an early 19-15 lead. Bryant struggled in the quarter without a point scored by shooting 0-5 from the field. Wolves rookie Wesley Johnson did a superb job defending Bryant, as well as doing damage on the offensive side as well. Johnson paced the Wolves with 14 points and after one quarter, the Wolves led 27-21.
In the second quarter, the Wolves continued to hold their lead with the help of their bench. Wayne Ellington’s 22 foot jump shot gave the Wolves a 37-32 lead. But after Gasol’s block of Martell Webster and slam dunk finish on the other end, the score was again tied 37-37. Kobe’s back to back three pointers tied the score at 49-49 but Love’s 2 foot shot with 0.3 seconds left helped the Wolves take a 51-49 lead into halftime. Johnson led the Wolves with 17 points. Love had another double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Gasol lead the Lakers with 15 points.
Gasol’s 16 foot jumper in the third gave the Lakers a 61-60 lead midway through the third quarter. Johnson’s back to back jumpers helped the Wolves regain the lead 74-73 with 1:13 to play. Kobe answered with eight straight points to help the Lakers take a 78-76 lead into the fourth.
During the final quarter of play, the lead changed several times between these two ball clubs until Kobe’s runner with 3:02 left put the Lakers up for good. The Lakers ran away with the game as they defeated the Wolves, 106-98. Gasol led the Lakers with 25 points. Wesley Johnson had another great game against the Lakers in a losing effort and finished with 29 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals.
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Written by Phil Aguila