- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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“Nobody is feeling sorry for us and we got plenty [of talent remaining] to win anyway, so let’s just do what we’re supposed to do and go out and play as hard as we can and see what happens.”
Later that day the Lakers learned they will be without World Peace for at least six weeks as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee.
Even with the bad news, L.A. did what its coach wanted it to do, what it was supposed to do.
It beat up on an inferior opponent (for the most part).
It shared the ball (for the most part).
It played with energy (for the most part).
It acted professional (for the most part).
It acted like a team that still has the best shooting guard-center combination in the league, even if World Peace is hurt.
As it’s been this whole Lakers season, it didn’t go off without a hitch, of course.
It missed its free throws (for the most part).
Dwight Howard was 2-for-8 on Hack-a-Howard situations in the fourth quarter, as the Wolves crept back from 15 down to get within three points.
Bryant missed a free throw with 3.4 seconds left that would have put L.A. up by four. Ricky Rubio streaked upcourt after the miss and let go a potentially game-tying 3 at the buzzer that fell short.
The replay showed that Bryant hit Rubio on the arm, but the officials didn’t call it.
How it happened: L.A. started off hot, opening up a quick 11-6 lead by shooting 5-for-5 from the floor. The Lakers made just three of their next 13 attempts to allow Minnesota back in the game. Bryant scored his first bucket of the game on a rousing dunk late in the quarter that put L.A. up 26-23 after one. The Lakers were only able to extend that lead by one at halftime before breaking it open in the third quarter, leading 91-79 after three as Bryant scored 16 in the period. It got interesting (er, ugly) there in the fourth, but a win is a win.
What it means: L.A. stopped the bleeding. If L.A. extended its losing streak to four games with an upset to the Kevin Love-less Wolves, it could easily be the tipping point for major problems down the stretch. Instead, Bryant (31 points, seven assists) and Howard (25 points, 16 rebounds, five steals, five blocks) looked like a formidable 1-2 punch once again. Granted, the Lakers were playing against a Wolves team that came into the night 25-44, but that’s not the point. L.A. played the right way and it showed.
Hits: Pau Gasol had his best game by far since returning from his plantar fascia injury in his right foot. After shooting just 27.8 percent from the field in his first two games back, Gasol was an efficient 8-for-12 from the field en route to 17 points and nine rebounds.
Antawn Jamison looked just fine gutting through his sprained right wrist for the majority of the game. He scored 18 points and shot 6-for-10 with five rebounds, but subbed out midway through the fourth clutching his wrist and wincing in pain after tweaking it on a layup attempt.
Misses: The Lakers had 15 first-half turnovers, leading to 13 points for Minnesota. That’s unacceptable. It got better in the second half, with L.A. finishing with 21 turnovers overall leading to 20 Minny points.
Howard shot 7-for-17 from the free throw line overall.
Steve Blake fouled out, picking up six whistles against him in 23 minutes, while shooting 3-for-9 form the floor and finishing with eight points and three assists.
Stat of the game: Jodie Meeks shot 2-for-7 overall and 1-for-4 from 3 in his first start in World Peace’s place, finishing with five points, four rebounds and three assists.
What's next: The Lakers will look to sweep a back-to-back for the first time all season, as they play in Milwaukee on Thursday. The Bucks will be playing a second night of a back-to-back themselves after facing Philadelphia on Wednesday. Even though Milwaukee is a decent home team, it should be prime for the taking for L.A. as the Bucks came into Wednesday having lost six out of eight games.