Timberwolves 117, Lakers 107

For everyone who has waited two seasons to see just how Andrew Bynum and Kwame Brown would play in the same lineup, the moment arrived at the end of the first half. It was over after just 3:37 but might have been a glimpse into the future.

After navigating the first half with Brown and Bynum each picking up two fouls, Lakers coach Phil Jackson opted to bring Brown in for Brian Cook with Kevin Garnett returning to finish the half.

Brown matched up against Garnett while Bynum guarded Mark Blount. There were only two plays of real significance during that time, the first coming as Kobe Bryant drove and flipped a behind-the-back pass to Bynum for a dunk.

The light-hearted moment of the game came a little later. Bryant stripped Ricky Davis and found himself alone of the fast break with Brown, far from the most sure-handed player in the NBA.

Bryant kept the ball even as Brown ran alongside, taking it in for a dunk. Jackson opted to start the second half with Cook and Bynum as his big men; Brown and Bynum got on the court together only for rebounding purposes in the first overtime.

Bynum didnt help himself by picking up his third and fourth fouls in not even four minutes to start the second half. He finished with 10 points and six rebounds while Brown struggled to finish around the basket, making just 1 of 5 shots, and was blocked by guard Marko Jaric on a key play late in regulation.

With Ronny Turiafs back spasms costing the Lakers another big body, Jackson might be forced to play Bynum and Brown together out of necessity. The Lakers are down to Bynum, Cook and Brown. You start the first two and bring Brown off the bench. I guess Maurice Evans is your emergency power forward in this situation.

It’s worth noting that Vladimir Radmanovic’s snowboarding accident grows more costly as Odom and Turiaf go down. Even with the fine, Radmanovic is still making more than $27,000 for each game he misses. Not bad work if you can get it.

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Jackson is going to have to walk the fine line between giving the Lakers the chance to win games and not running down Bryant with an eye toward the playoffs. In the second game without Lamar Odom, Bryant played 53:27 of a possible 58:00.

Bryant sat for all of 66 seconds in the first three quarters. He went to the bench to start the fourth and the Lakers were outscored 10-2 without him. So Bryant returned and played the final 18:33. Keep in mind this was the first game of a back-to-back set.

If youre keeping score at home, Bryant is now averaging 49:09 in playing time since Odom went down. Unless the Lakers play three overtimes Wednesday at Milwaukee, that numbers going to be coming down.

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Jackson had framed Smush Parkers foul-shooting problems earlier this season as being more about his fundamentals than anything in his head. He changed his tune slightly after Tuesdays game.

“Its both, Jackson said. “Smush is a guy who makes foul shots in practice and in the game has some difficulties.

* * *

It was amazing to see just how empty the upper deck was at Target Center. The Lakers are the biggest draw in the NBA, leading the league in road attendance, and yet the Timberwolves announced a crowd of just 15,197.

You have to wonder just where the Wolves would be attendance wise if Garnett left. Its hard to imagine a crowd smaller than Tuesdays for a Lakers game. Kobe Bryant, after all, only makes two trips here a season.

* * *

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS–No two players in todays NBA have worn the jersey of the same team longer than Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, who might as well have been kindred spirits Tuesday night at Target Center.

It is the duty of Bryant and Garnett to find a way to overcome the shortcomings of their respective teams from game to game, a job description neither superstar probably ever envisioned for the second half of their careers.

When the final horn sounded on a marathon game, Garnett and the direction-less Minnesota Timberwolves had a 117-107 double-overtime triumph over Bryant and injury-ravaged Lakers, who dropped to 0-2 on this four-game road trip.

All Lakers coach Phil Jackson asked with Lamar Odom and Luke Walton out was for his players to give themselves a chance to win. But the Lakers couldnt close out the game or outlast a Minnesota team that lost in two overtimes Sunday to Boston.

The Wolves led exactly once in regulation and once in the first overtime yet wound up winning for only the second time in eight games since the All-Star break, improving to 7-13 since Randy Wittman replaced Dwane Casey as coach.

Bryant finished with 40 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in 53 minutes but the Lakers could point to Smush Parkers four missed free throws at the end of regulation and the first overtime as the reason they lost.

“Its frustrating because its the little things that beat you, Bryant said. “Youve got to step to the line and knock down the free throws, make sure you dont give guys open looks at the basket and things of that nature.

“Its just the little things that weve got to figure out how to close games out with. That being said, we played a good game. All the way up until the end, we played a good game. We did the things defensively we wanted to do. We just didnt close it out.

Although he didnt mention Parker by name, Jackson was blunt in saying, “The reality is we missed free throws at the end of regulation and overtime that cost us the game.

The Lakers also lost forward/center Ronny Turiaf to back spasms in the second quarter. Turiaf did not return and is listed as day-to-day for tonights game at Milwaukee, possibly leaving the Lakers with only 10 available players.

Parker, who got off to a blazing start in scoring 11 first-quarter points, wilted at the end of the night. He was in position to be the hero for the Lakers when he stole Marko Jarics inbounds pass with 5.7 seconds left in regulation.

But Parker missed the first of two free throws, leaving an opening for the Wolves to send the game to overtime when Ricky Davis drove and was fouled by Kwame Brown. Davis sank both free throws to tie the score at 98-98.

Parker, who finished with 24 points, has been the Lakers second-worst free-throw shooter (62.8 percent) aside from Brown this season. All he could say after the game was “Needs work.

“I was confident, Parker added. “I want to step to that line. I want the ball down the stretch to get fouled. Ive just got to knock them down when I get there. . . . I strive to be better. If I was a 90 percent free-throw shooter, Id want to be 100 percent.

The Lakers also were unable to get the ball to Bryant at the end of either regulation or the first overtime for a final shot. Jackson had Sasha Vujacic inbound the ball the first time, Aaron McKie the second, and lamented not having Odom or Walton in that situation.

In addition, the Lakers committed three 24-second violations in overtime against Minnesotas zone defense and gave up two critical putbacks. The first was to Davis with 3.3 seconds left in the first overtime as he followed up Garnetts miss.

The second was to Randy Foye and put Minnesota ahead 111-107 in the second overtime. Davis finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and played 56 minutes while Garnett totaled 26 points and 17 rebounds in 51 minutes.

The Wolves rallied from six points down in the last 2 1-2 minutes of regulation as unheralded Mark Blount connected on three 3-pointers. They also got the defensive stop they needed with 7.9 seconds left when Jaric blocked Brown inside.

There will be no sure victories for the Lakers on this trip, even with games against sub-.500 Minnesota, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. That fact was all too apparent as they twice gave back a 13-point lead as well as a nine-point lead in Tuesdays game.

It was instructive just what happened when Bryant and Garnett went to the bench in the game. The Wolves gave up a 12-0 run and fell behind by 13 after Garnett checked out in the second quarter.

The Lakers werent much better without Bryant at the start of the fourth. They gave back what had been a seven-point lead entering the quarter, were outscored 10-2 and trailed 81-80 when Bryant returned for the final 8:33.

Bryant scored the Lakers first eight points out of halftime and finished with 17 points in the third quarter. He also hit what could have been the games biggest shot, a 3-pointer with 43.8 seconds left in the first overtime. It wasnt meant to be.

“I think we were despondent in that situation, Jackson said. “In both regulation and the first overtime, we had the lead and lost the game or lost the chance to win the game. I was trying to rally them and keep their spirits up. It was tough.

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  • tif

    Do you really think the Lakers are going to make the playoffs?

    Being realistic?

  • http://www.tabulas.com/~markmelo15 Mark Ogarte

    despite the string of losses, i’m hopeful and optimistic about this team. how i wish we had healthier guys going forward. they just can’t get it done. =) but it’s ok. hope you guys would join me in faithful, fervent prayers. God bless us all!

  • Allen

    Ross, thanks for all of the Lakers content you provide in addition to your regular column. You are appreciated.