Yes, with tonight’s 100-94 victory over the undermanned Minnesota Timberwolves, the Lakers have won three in a row, raising their record to 8-16, and a season-high .333 winning percentage. But, don’t read to much into all that, and also not into their likely win tomorrow night in Indiana, against the 7-17 Pacers. The Lakers beat by three points a Sacramento team playing without its best player, DeMarcus Cousins, who was at the time hospitalized with viral meningitis. Tonight they managed a six point win over a Wolves’ team playing without their THREE best players, leading scorer Kevin Martin, center Nikola Pekovic, their leading rebounder and third leading scorer, and point guard and heart of the team, Ricky Rubio, who prior to his injury was averaging almost as many assists per game as the rest of the team combined, 10.0 to 11.7.
|So, on a night when Kobe Bryant became the NBA's third leading all-time scorer, pushing Michael Jordan back to the fourth spot, and when again coach Byron Scott, realizing that he has no NBA-caliber point guard on his roster, used Kobe at the point in the closing minutes of the game, the streaking Lakers eked out another win against a squad composed essentially of inexperienced first and second year guys, and journeymen who have bounced around the league's fringes.||
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Minnesota starters included rookies Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins, and second year man Gorgui Dieng, plus Thaddeus Young, late of Philadelphia, and Corey Brewer, back with the Wolves after tours with Denver and Dallas. Reserves getting playing time were second year players Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett, and Robbie Hummel, plus Jeff Adrien, with his fifth team in five years, and Chase Budinger, the only player on the court to have been with Minnesota for each of the last three seasons.
All of the injuries have given considerable playing time to former UCLA Bruins Muhammad and LaVine, and to overall number one pick Wiggins, and the two Bruins have shown real promise. After a very disappointing rookie season, Muhammad has been the Wolves’ best player over the past month, and was the leading scorer in tonight’s game,
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|putting in 28 while collecting nine boards, in only 27 minutes. LaVine has also impressed, and has been handed the point guard spot in Rubio's absence. He's looked erratic at times, like tonight, after really impressing in their earlier game in LA, when he scored 28 on 11-of-14 shooting. Wiggins has been even more erratic, shooting under 40% for the season, but has shown flashes of what the the Wolves hoped to be getting in return when they traded Kevin Love to Cleveland.|
The young and inexperienced Wolves actually out shot the Lakers, 42.2% to 42% from the floor and 30% to 29.4% on threes, out rebounded the Lakers, 46 to 45, and had more assists, 25 to 22, but in a close game, they blocked fewer shots, committed more turnovers, had just over one-half as many steals, and shot far fewer free throws, making only 15 to the Lakers’ 27, and therein lies the tale of how the Lakers overpowered the limping Timberwolves, by six big points.