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 Bynum, Lakers too big for T-wolves in 132-119 win

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PostSubject: Bynum, Lakers too big for T-wolves in 132-119 win   Sat Jan 31, 2009 5:45 pm

MINNEAPOLIS(AP) Andrew Bynum is a big reason why the Los Angeles Lakers have the best record in the Western Conference.
And, boy, is he playing big.
Bynum
bulled his way inside to 27 points and 15 rebounds, providing the
perfect complement to Kobe Bryant and his 30 points, and the Lakers
started a six-game road trip with a 132-119 victory over the Minnesota
Timberwolves on Friday night.
Truly beginning to blossom in his
fourth season, Bynum - who could only watch with an injured left knee
while the Lakers were outmanned in the NBA finals last June by the
Boston Celtics - notched his fifth straight double-double.
"He
looks very confident in there right now, and he's playing above the
crowd, so to speak, in many ways,'' coach Phil Jackson said. "I think
this was a stepping out point for him.''Minnesota's recent
resurgence has been fueled by rebounding and reliable inside play, but
L.A. was simply too deep and too tall. Al Jefferson finished with 34
points and 13 rebounds, but Bynum proved to be just a bit stronger
inside. The Lakers have another 7-footer, Pau Gasol, who backed up his
All-Star selection with 21 points and nine rebounds.
"They're bigger than they look,'' Jefferson said. "Long and big.''Randy
Foye scored 27 points for the Wolves, who rallied from a 20-point hole
with an 18-7 run in the fourth quarter but couldn't get any closer.
This was the most points they've allowed in regulation this season;
they lost their sixth straight game to the Lakers.
Bynum, the
reigning Western Conference player of the week, helped the Lakers make
up for a frustrating double-overtime loss at home to Charlotte on
Tuesday. Jackson proclaimed before the game his players had flushed
that experience "down the toilet'' and forgotten about it, and they
proved him right.Bynum continued his surge by playing with
consistent command of the area around the hoop, which is just what
Shaquille O'Neal used to do for Jackson, Bryant and the Lakers when
they won three straight titles earlier this decade. And Bynum can make
his free throws: 7-for-8 from the line.
"We're starting to expect
it from him because he's being aggressive. He's being assertive,''
Bryant said. "He's finding his niche and where he can operate in the
offense. I like it. I like it a lot.''
Bryant sparked the Lakers'
surge in the third quarter, swishing a 3-pointer and leaving his wrist
cocked in Foye's face for emphasis while the lead stretched to 91-73.
Minnesota settled for too many jumpers.
"Some teams don't have
one guy that can post up and play the center position,'' Bynum said.
"We actually have two that can do it pretty well. I think the game plan
should always be to go inside. We know what Kobe can do. ...
Offensively I think we've kind of figured it out and we know what's
going to happen.''
Ryan Gomes and Kevin Love each added 14 points
for the Wolves, who blew a late lead and lost to Detroit on Wednesday
after starting 2009 with a 10-2 record. This brutal three-game stretch
concludes Sunday afternoon at defending champion Boston.
"I told
our guys that the way they make the playoffs is to have winning
months,'' coach Kevin McHale said. "Not winning days. Not winning
weeks. Winning months. ... You've got to sustain it.''
Thanks to
Gomes and Jefferson's inside touch, the Wolves stayed with the Lakers
and came two points short of their season high for the first half -
taking a 64-60 deficit into the locker room. In the final minute, while
Bynum flashed his long arms for the ball in the lane, Gomes pestered
Bryant for a solid 20 seconds and forced an off-target shot by the
perennial All-Star at the end of the possession. But the second half
was another story for Minnesota.
Notes: Lakers F Trevor Ariza was
cleared - he had eight points in 23 minutes - after a CT scan and MRI
test came back with no problems. He left Tuesday's game with a
concussion, but Jackson said Ariza was first hit in the head Sunday
against San Antonio. ... Minnesota G Sebastian Teflair's availability
was in question again after getting kneed in the thigh for a second
straight game on Wednesday, but he had 10 points in 32 minutes. ... The
All-Star break won't be a break for the Lakers' coaching staff, which
will run the Western Conference team. Jackson didn't hide his
disinterest in a busy All-Star weekend in Phoenix, but he showed a
sense of humor. Asked if he'll play Bryant and his
former-teammate-turned-foe O'Neal together in the exhibition. "Of
course,'' Jackson said, smiling. "I wouldn't miss that opportunity for
the world.'' ... The crowd was announced at 19,111, the largest of the
season. The Wolves entered the night ranked 26th in the league in home
attendance, with an average crowd of 13,754 per game.

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