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Lakers 110, Minnesota 90: Hugs for all the people!

Derek_fisher_and_kobe_bryant The Minnesota Timberwolves aren't a particularly good team when everyone's available.  Without Al Jefferson and Randy Foye, as they were Friday night at Staples Center, arguably the only thing that separates Kevin McHale's bunch from the NBA and an the rec are some really ugly NBA-licensed road uniforms.  That said, the Lakers haven't exactly been consistent in their ability to dispatch of low level competition, missing opportunities to get the starters early rest and important burn for the rest of the bench.  Not tonight.  LA took control early and held it, winning 110-90 and executing the blueprint to perfection.  Only Pau Gasol cracked the 30 minute mark (by all of 33 seconds) and the reserves had extended opportunities to stretch their collective legs. 

It's a reward the headliners know was well deserved for the supporting cast. 

"Maybe the last three or four games, we felt like there were maybe teams that they should have been able to get (them) on the court, but we didn't go a good job at protecting our lead," said Lamar Odom.  "Tonight was fun to see them out there and be able to do their thing, because they push us in practice.  They make us better, so we have to go out there and show that it paid off, and play well to get them on the court. "

BK

Three Good:

  • Turnovers: Specifically, the lack thereof.  Against a T-Wolves team missing its two best scorers in Jefferson and Foye, the scouting report says if the Lakers don't offer up free points on a platter by turning the ball over (1), good things will happen (2). give up cheap points, good things will happen.  They didn't (1) and they did (2).  Four turnovers on the night, including long stretches of garbage time minutes with the "Hello My Name Is..." unit of Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown, DJ Mbenga, Adam Morrison, and Trevor Ariza took the floor. That's impressive, and reflected in Josh_powell_blocks_brian_cardinal the score.
  • Defense: At the end of the first quarter, Minnesota was shooting 33%.  At the end of the second, 31%.  Through three, 33%.  At the end, 33%.  That's effective.  Knowing the Wolves didn't have much to offer, LA did a nice job of sealing the paint and keeping Minnesota outside, daring, double dog daring even, them to make jumpers.  When Minnesota did manage to get the ball down low, no small portion of their shot attempts went the other way, thanks to 14 blocks from the Lakers, their second straight game with double digit swats.  Mbenga led the way with four, Odom and Josh Powell each had three, Pau two.  Even lil' Jordan Farmar got all up there and joined the block party.  In the third quarter, the Lakers took over the game in part by forcing five Timberwolves TOs and turning them into nine points, helping stretch an 11 point halftime lead to 18. 
  • Bench Mob 2.0: Earlier in the season, it was guys like Farmar, Ariza, and of course LO pushing the success of the second unit.  Tonight, it was Josh Powell (6-11 for 14 points, plus six rebounds and three blocks) and Mbenga, quickly becoming a crowd favorite with his big swats (five) and surprisingly effective scoring, going 4-5 from the floor en route to a career high 10 points (leaving him a scant 23,000 and change behind Kobe Bryant, who passed Robert Parish for 18th on the all time scoring list Friday night).  "We believe that every guy on the team can make a positive contribution," Derek Fisher said.  "It doesn't mean just scoring or doing things offensively.  I think people enjoyed DJ's shot blocking more than the points he scored.  It was him impact, his effort, and his energy that made a difference in that final quarter.  We're going to need that type of thing in order to win a championship.  We can't do this with just Kobe or just Pau or just the starters.  It's going to take all of us."

The Lakers worked to give Chris Mihm a chance to regain the form he had a couple years back.  I certainly was pulling for the guy, and wanted him to have a shot.  Clearly, though, they made the right choice in basketball terms by letting him go and turning his minutes over to someone with more mobility and presence.  Against better competition, Mbenga's challenge will be to avoid foul trouble and still contribute.  But it's great to see guys like Mbenga and Powell, who are harder workers than they are big talents, have a chance to succeed. 

BK

Three Bad

  • Luke Walton:  The evening's first possession kicked off with Walton getting blocked on a layup Luke_walton_against_minnesota_2 attempt by noted swatter Mike Miller (one-third of a block per game on a career!), an omen for the struggles #4 was to experience.  1-6 from the floor, and a few misses were on attempts where he tried to do considerably too much.  The worst offense was a sequence where Luke put the ball on the floor, back on the floor again... and again... and again... without actually going anywhere... until finally firing a brick.  Pounding the rock until it's black and blue to create a shot ain't remotely Luke's game.  Even when the razzle dazzle was successful- his one make was a spinning, off balance one-handed bank shot- the encore was a muddy turnover in the paint on the very next Laker possession.  He only had one turnover, but it felt like more.  There was also a few defensive breakdowns and late closes, typifying a night where, a couple of nice passes aside, Walton looked mostly out of sorts. 
  • Lamar Odom: Recently against Memphis, I praised the heck out of LO for a night where he notched a measly two points, but otherwise brought plenty of "gibles"- "tan" and "intan"- to the table.  Tonight was the Bizarro World version of that two point performance.  Take away the five boards (pretty low by his standards, anyway), and his gaudiest number on the night was a "4," which happened to mark his foul total, along with the number of foul shots he took and missed.  Odom's  general lack of energy was evident enough that Phil even asked LO at halftime if he was doing okay.  In the meantime, again, just two points, on the same amount of attempts.  As many Lakers Blog regulars know, I've often said that LO's point total can be an overblown conversation piece among fans.  Lamar is never going to be a 20 ppg kinda guy, nor does he even need to be on this particular team.  But he does at least need to represent a scoring threat, and along those lines, a pair of tries, like the overall effort itself, won't cut the mustard.
  • The Wolves' work on the offensive glass:  Wait, let me rephrase.  They actually did a terrific job, despite the absence of Al Jefferson.  Minnesota snagged eighteen offensive rebounds, six higher than their average.  Heck, Shelden Williams alone had five.  However, by definition, that would mean the Lakers were rather lousy in bodying up, boxing out, and general reactions towards the Wolves' plethora of brick.  Given the final score, it would be hard to argue this really "hurt" the Lakers.   But even if it's a victimless crime, that doesn't mean they wouldn't be found guilt in a court of law.  Were the Wolves a more competent (or healthy, if nothing else) squad, they might have been able to convert that discrepancy into more than sixteen second chance points.   

AK

One Impressive Thing:

  • Shannon Brown: They don't keep stats for YouTube Worthy Moments Per 48, but if they did, Brown would be leading the league.  In the fourth quarter, about two minutes after entering the game Brown elevated like he was re-enacting a scene from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to throw down a big dunk.  Then, similar to this gem we saw a few weeks back, rose up to contest what looked like a sure fire layup for Minnesota's Bobby Brown on the other end.  (Brown on Brown crime.  It's a shame, really.) Dude. Has. Hops. 

One Big Thing:

  • Rest: A season is filled with all sorts of peaks and valleys, with high profile moments (say, consecutive games on the road against Boston and Cleveland) and weeks like this one, with games against Memphis and Minny (also a popular jug band in Alabama back in the mid-60s) that would be... less interesting.  But when it's said and done, LA could benefit from how they handled these two games as much as any other two on the docket.  Twice the starters had a chance to sit without crashing the 30 minute mark.  Combined with a light schedule, the Lakers gave themselves a great opportunity to recharge the batteries ahead of this week's very tough roadie through Portland, Houston, and San Antonio. 

BK

VIDEO:

Phil Jackson
, on DJ Mbenga and the team's defense:

   

Phil Jackson on the Lakers being the first this season to 50 wins, and the upcoming roadie:

   

Kobe Bryant on the win, DJ, Shannon Brown, and other sundry items:

   

 
Comments () | Archives (31)

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It was a good start up game for the Lakers for the upcoming 4 roadies ahead. The game felt more like a playground game than a real NBA game. Twolves were severly manhandled by the Lakers. Low and behold Mbenga was the man tonight. Blocking shots, protecting the rim and making J's like he was the Mamba. Did you see the dunk of Shannon Brown that was sick and the block on the other end was even more remarkable. What hops. I saw, Farmar in the bench after the block of Brown and he didn't seem to impressed. He may feel that Brown is out to get his spot if doesnt start to play D or start knocking some chots down. I have this feeling that Josh Powell is Lakers version of Horace Grant and L.O is a poor mans Scottie Pippen. Kobe was Kobe tonight, The dude just keeps on adding accolades to his Legend. Its a thrill to witness greatness in his prime and how we all take the Mamba for granted. The dude is so damn good and we underestimate him at times. Kb24, Congrats in passing Robert"the chief" Parish in all-time scorng record. Next player for Kobe to surpass, Sir Charles Barkley.

the Wall Street had the Lehman Bros. No bailout for U.

the Lakers have K Bros. A bails out B and vice-versa.

the LA Times, where amazin' happens!

DJ MBENGA!

Odom is the reason we are not going to win anything this year. I can't believe they did not trade his ar-se..2 pts against Sota and Memphis? That is shocking. I hope we don't bring him back.
I am also amazed at how people criticize the bench. They are young, they are not expected to play well away from him. Period. So lets cut them some slack. If veterans like Odom are scoring 2 pts then we have no business calling out the bench..

A win in Portland would be great.

Returning home 3-0 would be huge

Why is it that media and bloggers go overboard discussing veterans?

San Antonio is not a threat. Excluding Duncan they lack an inside game. Kurt Thomas, Jacque Vaughn, Mike Finely, Oberto, are not the answer. Would much rather have Famar, TA, Sasha and DJ.

Andrew Bynum will return as the BEAST.

Todd

After a brief rest, back to the NBA season. The Lakers have seemed very flat the last couple of weeks. They ran on adrenaline for awhile, after losing Bynum, and facing Cleveland and Boston. Every game seemed to matter. They played with intensity and looked great. Then they hit a flat stretch of the season and went flat.

Now on the road to Portland and Texas, a tough three game Western Conference trip, and we will see if the urgency and focus return. This week may determine if the Lakers end the season with the best record. If they rise to the occasion and sweep this week they will tough to catch. If they drop 2 games, they will be essentially tied with Cleveland and Boston with a 7 game road trip looming.

Last night was great to get some burn for the bench. I agree with BK that the Mihm trade was the right thing to do - Powell and Mbenga are earning their minutes. Powell could become a solid rotation player.

Farmar continues to a concern - now you see him / now you don't. Mentally he seems to come and go for long stretches. Even as a Bruin his mentality was questionable. He blamed teammates for his own mistakes, yelling at them on court. I am not sure he is mentally suited to being a role player on a great team. He may be happier starting on a lesser team. I have the nagging feeling he is chafing at his role.

At this point Farmar should be the heir apparent at the point. As Fisher ages, he should be moving to the backup role, maybe next yeat. But Farmar does not look close to ready to step in. If his play doesn't turn around, the Lakers will have to pursue a point guard in the offseason.

Watched the game this morning off the DVR. Snoozefest in the first half but WOW when the bench got going in the 4th is was pure entertainment! Can't say enough about the activity of Mbenga. All those blocks! Dude - keep it up! And Brown's dunk was sick. Very fun to watch.

All right Portland. We're gonna kick your teeth in! First time in 4 years we're winning up there. We gotta give Christopher Blake bragging rights, man.

GO LAKERS!!!!!!!!!!

As of today 3/7/09 I am starting my own personal Bynum return countdown.

I'm giving him 3 weeks.

I'm making the golden rings that I can tear off right now. One per day, then 21 days later I reach the big day!
Don't let me down, Andrew.

21 days.

See you on the court.

Wes

I mispoke the other day when I talked about the Lakers clinching a playoff spot. They have 20 games left and lead PHX by 16 in the loss column. That means their magic # is 4. Any combo of Lakers wins and PHX losses that total 4 equals a playoff berth. I know that's not the goal but some people posted questions asking about it.

Next up is a date at the always hospitable Rose Garden. I hope the Lakers rest up even more this weekend and get that mindset to go 3-0 on this road trip.

Mbenga and Brown stepping up big time. I just hope they can contribute at some point when it counts. Shannon Brown has some serious hops. I would like to see a dunk contest between Farmar, Ariza, and Brown.

One thing that has been really bugging me lately is Josh Powell. I understand he's an emotional player but it doesn't sit well with me when he screams like a monster after scoring against the Twolves in the 4th quarter when we're up by a bigillion points. He always sticks his chest out and yells after he scores. Don't get me wrong, emotion is good thing but there's a time and a place. I wouldn't mind him screaming against a playoff team scoring the go ahead basket. Hopefully Josh gets the message.

Lamar = Finals MVP

hey BK,

what if the Cavs and the Lakers meet in the Finals and the Lakers lose? What will you do?

(imagine Lebron getting his ring first before Kobe gets his without Shaq)

I LOVE LA!!!!!!!

I was pissed at Congo Cash for a while after he elbowed my boy Chris Mihm in the face in practice last month.

I thought he was a punk, I hoped that his days in LA would be numbered.


Well, I've made a full recovery from my bitterness and now I'm ready to embrace Big Congo. The dude is a stud.

CONGO CASH!!

GO LAKERS!!

U gotta luv Mbenga's energy, effort & intensity out there. Said intangibles don't always produce meaningful results, but Captain Congo is coming into his own, executing well & maximizing the minutes he's given by making an impact on just about every possession.

U can tell that P.J. has found his 'diamond in the rough.' I think he sees, in Mbenga, a potential difference maker down the road (playoffs) so PJ & the coaching staff are making a concerted effort to pump him up, build his confidence (by letting him run extended minutes w/the 2nd unit) & get him acclimated to playing with the first unit (PJ said this himself post game) & their level of competition so that he is ready for the big games... BAM! This is gonna pay off fo' sho'...

CONGO CA$H BABY!!!!

Congo Cash...

I'd rock it

I am happy with this win. Happy!

My official prediction: Lakers end the regular season with 68 wins.

Shannon Brown and Josh Powell are KEEPERS!

I'm very excited about Shannon Brown's long-term potential. He's the gem of that trade.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!

Glad to see PJ say Mbenga helps and mention last years play against Denver. I would say it was more than Denver but at least he is playing him now.

As I said before Mbenga should get a bit of run to bring Pau's minutes down and good to see I was right.

Yes he did great against lesser team but I feel he can still be effective against eleite teams by playing a few minutes hard to give bigs a rest and even if he fouls out getting 6 fouls after playing 10-12 minutes 5-6 minutes 1st half rest 2nd half he will have done his job.

It would be better if he don't pick up fouls and that would be gravy. Let him get some burn and rest the starters. I see by PJs comments he finally agrees but hope he follows through on what he says. It is well known PJ says one thing and does another. Mind games.

wes,

21 days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The countdown is on.

Brett,

Dont worry about Lebron getting a ring before Kobe gets one without Shaq ... neither is getting one in the next couple of years!

AK/BK,
When Bynum returns and LO goes back to the bench.. whom do you think will accompany LO in the front court?? Josh Powell or DJ Mbenga??

LAKER GURU FROM INDIA

guru-

First, I don't think Bynum returns and just walks back into the starting lineup. It'll take a few games, and depending on when Bynum is back on the court it wouldn't surprise me to see PJ have him come off the bench until the end of the season. Either way, though, I think the answer to your question is very matchup dependent. DJ's time shrinks considerably, since Gasol essentially becomes the backup center as well as starting PF, and Powell's goes down, too (as it did earlier in the season) because Odom picks up all those minutes where Bynum and Gasol aren't on the floor together.

Whether Powell or Mbenga plays will be dependent on the situation. Is it foul trouble to LO or Pau? Or Bynum? Do they need someone to lean on a seven footer, or a more mobile matchup against a smaller lineup?

Either way, both will find their minutes limited.

BK

131-92,

I wasn't rooting for either team but hey thanks for beating the Cavaliers.

Still that doesn't say much other than again you beat the Cavs in Boston. Until you win in Cleveland not to mention winning the home court the Lakers real threat in the East is not your Celtics but the Cavs.

Until then, the Lakers will be more focused on securing the Wild Wild West.

-KB Blitz

Kobe,

Your welcome! I know you will never admit you were rooting for the Celts but I know that deep down inside Laker Fan was. Its ok ... anything we can do to help you get there in June.

Doesnt say much? Beating them w/o KG? Not to mention w/o Big Baby in the 2nd half, even though I agree it should have been called a flagrant foul, it should not have been a flagrant II and an ejection. But whatever. True if they end up with a better record we still have to win in Cleveland but I have no doubt if KG is healthy we will beat them.

Come playoff time KG will be rested and Starbury will be getting into playing shap. #18 will be raised in June!

131-92

No it doesn't say much because it was not in Cleveland. Say what you will but the Celtics blew out the Cavaliers in Games 1 and 2 yet were blown out in Games 3 and 4. And remember what happened in Cleveland:

98-83. And that was with KG as well and they were without Big Z.

As of this moment, the Cavaliers have the better record and their home record was only broke by *ONE* team:

Los Angeles Lakers.

Until the Celtics in in Cleveland then I'm not impressed with the Celtics one bit seeing as the Cavaliers are the bigger threat to you guys than us.

And if we do meet you then LA wins not Boston.

-KB Blitz

Shannon Brown...WOW.

-bozz-

Kobe,

Thats all fine but you keep talking about last yr but last time I checked we won the title. So Im not sure why you keep refering to last year ... its not like they beat us. So if last year means so much, then that means we will beat you again! Or your theory doesnt apply when it comes to the Lakers?

And if your not impress with the Celtics ... thats ok. The Celtics dont play to impress you or anybody else. Im sure you were not impressed by them last year and we beat you then too.

We lost all the games on the road to the Hawks last yr in the playoffs and beat them on the road this yr. What happened to your theory that since we lost to them "last" yr we cant possibly beat them this yr? It took us 7 games to beat the Hawks last yr and we crushed the Lakers in 6 ... does that make the Hawks better than the Lakers?

The Patriots beat the Giants in the regular season a couple of years ago then lost to them in the Super Bowl ... what happened to your theory there?

Bottom line is winning ... nobody cares how ... just win! Whether in 7,6 or 4 ... just win! Nobody asks how many games did you lose? Do you know how many total games the Lakers lost in the playoffs in 80,82,85,87,88?
Didnt think so ... but you do know they won right? Thats all that matters!

I refer to them last year because last year they weren't as talented as this year and you can agree on that can you?

Last year the Cavs weren't chasing for the best overall record. Last year Lebron was only 4th/5th in MVP voting. And yes the Hawks took the Celtics to 7 games but remember the Hawks got blown out everytime they went to Boston.

This year is different for the Celtics Cavs. Posey will eventually be a bigger lose in the long term. Posey allowed Pierce to not work too hard on the defensive end. True you guys beat Cleveland that is great actually. But then again it was in Boston and not Cleveland.

Now indeed it does matter who wins in the end. But remember: You aren't a championship caliber team if you can't win on the road. Boston only proved it after winning twice in Motown and once in LA. That's why people were selecting Detroit to reach the Finals after Game 7 against the Cavaliers. Of course they were proven wrong but only after the Celtics won in Detroit.

And Cleveland/Detroit even last year were different in the regular season. At Cleveland the Celtics never won the entire year! In contrast the Celtics won in Detroit the only time they were in the Motor City so it's not surprising they beat Detroit twice in the ECF.

Now *IF* Cleveland wins the best record in the East and going by not only last year's experience (when the Celtics were blown out twice and barely had a chance in Game 6) not to mention a blowout loss in Cleveland earlier this year (when they didn't have Big Z while the Celtics had Kevin Garnett) plus Cleveland's record at home is only tarnished by the LA Lakers, the Cavaliers will have the edge. You can win against them in Boston but they will have the edge at home. That's why you should be *more* concerned about the Cavaliers than us even though there are Laker trolls in your blogs. Because the Cleveland folks will be looking for blood for what Glen Davis did (in similar fashion to how they reacted to Rasheed Wallace's elbow against Big Z which caused him to bleed).

And yes I do know how many games the Lakers lost in each of those title runs:
80: 4 losses
82: 2 losses
85: 4 Losses
87: 3 losses
88: 9 losses (Hey I know this stuff I was practically glued to the TV watching Showtime)

-KB Blitz

Kobe,

Who said Im more concerned with the Lakers than the Cavs? I never said that. Of course Cleveland would have an edge if they have home court advantage like any other team that has home court advantage. I much rather have the home court advantage but if we dont then we will have to win there and if we dont then we wont win. The Celts will have nobody to blame but themselves. Maybe they will look back and regret losing to the Clippers. I think the Celtics can win 1 of 4 in Cleveland if they have to.

I think the Celtics are better this yr than last year. I agree with you that the loss of Posey is huge for the same reason you mentioned but the fact is he is no longer on the team. It is what it is. But overall the team is better. Rondo, Perk,Baby and Powe (or Pow as your smarta$$ coach called him) are much better this yr. We now have a backup point guard that we didnt have last yr ... as much as I like Cassell he didnt help us much last yr on the court. We have pretty much the same record as last yr.

We are playing w/o KG,Tony Allen and Scal. I know you will laugh at Scal but according to Rondo when Scal is in the game it opens up the court and its easier for him to drive. But again it is what it is everybody has injuries and you just have to overcome them or lose.

Btw im impressed that you know how many games they lost those yrs (unless you looked it up) but my point is that it doesnt matter. They won! Even if they were playing in a much weaker Western Conference in those days than the East where the Celtics played in.

Do you mean the Lakers cant win in Charotte because the folks will be "looking for blood" for what Bynum did to Wilkens?

DJ MBENGA= BLOCKS PER 48 MINUTES 8.68 WHICH LEADS THE NBA
I just checked that on NBA.COM is that stat sick or what?
He should have been used last year against Boston in the finals that could have helped us a lot.He did not even play 1 second in the finals last year.Perkins and Garnett would not be able to bully him around.

Do you guys agree with that or what?

Mike,

Generally, MBenga has played backup minutes vs only bad
teams. PJ hasn't played him much against Boston or Cleveland
or any of the top teams in the west.

Thus his stats are inflated. Do you think he would block Paul
Pierce as easily as he blocked Rodney Carney? Do you think
he would block Kevin Garnett like he blocked Shelden Williams
on Friday?

Pierce and Garnett are much more skilled players than Carney
and Williams. They may have gotten their shot off past MBenga's
block attempt, and they almost certainly would have drawn
a foul. In fact, I'll wager that if the exact same 4 blocks thet
occurred Friday happened in a game vs the Celtics vs Pierce
and Garnett, that the refs would have called at least 3 of them
fouls, just in the course of giving Pierce and Garnett star treatment.

I'm not saying MBenga is useless or anything. I think he may
have been more effective than Ronny Turiaf was in last year's
finals. But don't expect him to get 4 or 5 blocks if he's defending
stars instead of Minnesota's scrubs.

Oh, and by the way, I think MBenga is a better player than Kwame
Brown. If he could control his fouling, he'd be a MUCH better
player.

When will the Lakers clinch a spot in the playoffs. Is the West that competitive?


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