Below are five things to take away from the Lakers’ 116-94 victory Thursday over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center:
1. The Lakers didn’t let down throughout the game. Kudos to the Lakers for not making this game closer than it should’ve been. The Lakers led by double digit leads for most of the game and never let Minnesota really have a fighting chance despite Rick Rubio’s 13 points and 12 assists. That’s hardly been the case in past games, including one a month ago where the Lakers nearly cost a 29-point lead at Minnesota. The Lakers have a large hill still to climb into playoff contention. So no need in wasting energy against teams that shouldn’t field much of a problem.
2. Kobe Bryant became a scorer again. The Lakers are better suited long term when Bryant strikes a balance between scoring and passing. But it’s hard to fault Bryant from completely taking over when he’s constantly getting great looks. Bryant’s 33 points on 13 of 22 shooting remained a product of Bryant’s aggressiveness all around. He made five of his attempts close to the basket. Bryant’s effecitve floor spacing also contributed to going 4 of 8 from three-point range.
It’s easy to get numb to Bryant’s greatness. But it’s mind boggling that Bryant at age 34 is moving with the fluidity most NBA players show in their prime. As much as of a high volume shooter he was against Minnesota, none of Bryant’s shots seemed forced. Instead, Bryant became opted for the scoring role because it gave him the best chance to make a positive imprint on the game.
3. Dwight Howard made an impact even with the lack of offensive attempts. Earlier this season, Howard may have griped about only scoring 11 points on 5 of 6 of shooting. But he hardly hard that mindset against Minnesota. Howard remained effective by taking ownership on defense. Howard finished with 12 rebounds, made several defensive stops with blocks and deflections and kept the unit pretty organized.
Of course, the Lakers should feature him on offense more. But with the Lakers’ strong outside shooting (16 of 31) there wasn’t much need. Kudos to Howard for still staying engaged.
4. The Lakers’ bench remained solid.
If they were putting together a highlight reel showing their best qualities, Jodie Meeks, Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison should pull clips from this game. After missing his first three shots, Meeks scored 16 points on going 5 of 8 from three-point range in the second half. That showcased Meeks’ never-ending confidence and willingness to take open shots. Jamison thrived moving off the ball and attacking the rim en route to 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting. Such an effort epitomized what the Lakers envisioned he’d bring when signing him this offseason.
Blake’s 13 points on 4 of 6 shooting and seven assists featured qualities that show he’s been a perfect fit under Mike D’Antoni’s system. Blake remained aggressive (including making a nifty reverse layup). He showed strong court vision, including throwing an alley oop lob to Howard. Blake also fulfilled D’Antoni’s adage that the “ball finds energy” by hustling all over the place.
5. The Lakers receive plenty of rest. Howard (34) Bryant (32), Steve Nash (25) and Metta World Peace (28) iced the bags early. So much that even seldom-used forward Devin Ebanks made an appearance in the final two minutes.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org