Lakers clinch Western Conference, beat Minnesota without Bryant and Bynum
The Lakers didn't miss Kobe Bryant or Andrew Bynum, clinching the best record in the Western Conference after beating a hapless Minnesota team, 97-88, Friday at Target Center.
Pau Gasol had 29 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers (56-23), who won despite Bryant sitting out a second consecutive game because of knee swelling and Bynum sitting out a 10th consecutive game because of a strained left Achilles' tendon.
The Lakers' reserves were a surprising source of scoring, led by Jordan Farmar (13 points) and DJ Mbenga (a season-high 11 points). The Lakers' backups outscored those of the Timberwolves, 33-25.
The Lakers' next game is Sunday against Portland, though Coach Phil Jackson didn't sound hopeful that Bryant would play.
"I basically said if you have to take all the games off until the playoffs, we have to do that," Jackson said before the game.
Former UCLA player Kevin Love had 12 points and 18 rebounds for the Timberwolves (15-64), who have the NBA's second-worst record.
-- Mike Bresnahan
Photo: Lakers guard Shannon Brown glides to the basket past Timberwolves guard Corey Brewer during the first quarter Friday night. Credit: Ann Heisenfelt / Associated Press