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 Bryant, Lakers outlast spirited Wolves

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PostSubject: Bryant, Lakers outlast spirited Wolves   Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:35 pm

MINNEAPOLIS(AP) Major knee injuries have robbed the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves of their star centers.The
Lakers just keep cruising right along on their way to the No. 1 seed in
the Western Conference playoffs even without Andrew Bynum, while the
Timberwolves look lost without Al Jefferson.The difference? The Lakers have Lamar Odom.Odom
had 25 points and 14 rebounds, and Kobe Bryant scored 28 to move past
Elgin Baylor into 20th place on the NBA's career scoring list in the
Lakers' 111-108 victory Sunday night.Pau Gasol added 25 points
for the team with the league's best record, which is 9-1 since Bynum
went down with a torn MCL in his right knee on Jan. 31.When asked how his team has sustained its success, guard Derek Fisher pointed across the locker room to Odom."Lamar
has been asked more than anybody to make sacrifices that guys of his
caliber normally aren't asked to make,'' Fisher said, referring to Odom
coming off the bench for 45 of the team's first 46 games. "Now that
he's back in the starting lineup, he's letting the game come to him and
his talent speaks for itself.''Odom is averaging 17.2 points and 13.9 rebounds since Bynum went out."I'm just finding my way,'' Odom said. "I'm feeling real comfortable out there.''The Timberwolves wish they had that kind of depth.Ryan
Gomes had 20 points and seven rebounds and Craig Smith scored 19 on
9-for-10 shooting for the Timberwolves, who are 1-4 without Jefferson
and have lost six straight home games."You just have to fight
through that frustration level when you think things aren't going your
way,'' Minnesota coach Kevin McHale said.Bryant's breakaway
lay-in with 10:42 to play in the third quarter pushed him past the
former Lakers great Baylor into third in franchise history, behind only
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West.The last time the Lakers were
here, Bynum had 27 points and 15 rebounds in the Lakers' 132-119
victory, but things weren't as easy this time around.The Lakers had height mismatches all over the floor.Bryant
had a 2-inch advantage over Randy Foye according to the listed heights,
but he plays so much bigger than the Wolves' captain and had no problem
getting his shots in the low post.The 7-foot Gasol was an even
bigger handful for Kevin Love, generously listed at 6-10, on the low
block. The Spaniard routinely beat Love down the floor to gain position
in the paint, and once he got the ball, it was all over.Bryant
was 6-for-8 in the first half, most coming on short turnaround jumpers
over Foye. Gasol went 8-for-10 in the first two periods with nothing
coming from further than 5 feet out."He is the best player in
the game, the way he plays, the way he dominates,'' Foye said of
Bryant. "It's just a tough matchup. It's a mismatch all around the
board. They're always going to have a mismatch, no matter the
position.''Yet for all that success, the Lakers had plenty of
problems putting this depleted Wolves team away. Smith made his first
eight shots from the field, the last two on breakaway layups to give
Minnesota an 80-78 lead after three quarters.Bryant converted a
three-point play and then a baseline turnaround jumper over Foye with
his tongue wagging Jordan-style for a 106-103 lead. He added two free
throws and Foye missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer to seal it.Lakers
coach Phil Jackson ripped his team's defense, which allowed the 18-37
Wolves to shoot 50 percent, make 10 3-pointers and get several
wide-open drives to the basket."We got lucky, man,'' Odom said.Notes:
Bryant also had seven assists and six rebounds. ... The Timberwolves
held a moment of silence before the game in memory of Utah owner Larry
Miller, who died Friday. ... Former Vikings defensive tackle Esera
Tuaolo sang the national anthem.

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