Game Notes: Timberwolves at Lakers
Bad news: More bad luck for Bynum.
In what was supposed to be a meaningless game for the Lakers, a potentially meaningful injury turned out to be the storyline.
Minnesota didn’t pose much of a threat on Friday night. None whatsoever, in fact. And the final score, a 104-96 victory for Kobe Bryant & Co., is a good indication of just that. The win, however, did come at a cost. Imagine that.
Andrew Bynum went down with a strained Achilles in the third quarter, headed to the locker room immediately thereafter, and didn’t end up returning to the game. Ultimately, he limped out of Staples Center afterward in a walking boot.
“I was just running and felt a lot of pain in my calf and down from there,” Bynum said to several members of the media. “It’s calmed down a little bit now. It was just really sharp, really quick. One or two seconds of super sharp pain.”
An MRI is set for Saturday, and at some point shortly thereafter, a more definitive diagnosis will be determined. Until then, Bynum and the Lakers will remain in limbo.
Hate to use the term soft, but given Bynum’s history of injuries, questions undoubtedly could be raised. It will be interesting to see how his most recent setback plays out.
*** A day after missing practice because of tonsillitis, Pau Gasol is toughing it out, warming up beforehand, shooting jumpers down on the Lakers end of the floor. It doesn’t appear as if the ailment is going to slow him down.
*** Hard to believe what a complete bust Darko Milicic has been thus far. We are, after all, talking about a dude that, back in 2003, was the second pick in the NBA Draft, right behind LeBron James. For the record, Carmelo Anthony was third overall followed by Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. That’s some pretty select company, if you ask me. Nevertheless, Milicic will get the start down low, in the middle for Minnesota.
*** The weekend has arrived here in Los Angeles and that means one thing, the celebrities figure to be out in full force, courtside for the game. Jack Nicholson is in the house, of course. That’s a given. Making a surprise appearance is TomKat, Tom Cruise and wifey Katie Holmes. Leonardo DiCaprio is in the place to be. Chris Brown and Penelope Cruz too, although they‘re not together. Can’t forget to mention Javier Bardem, that dude from No Country for Old Men. He’s up in the mix.
*** Ron Artest is feeling it early on. Out of the corner of his eye, Bryant spots him alone, open out on the perimeter and Ron Ron knocks down a pair of three-pointers, Then Artest adds an uncontested layup to give the Lakers an 11-6 lead at 8:12.
*** Bynum gets loose underneath and Kobe delivers a pin-point pass for an alley-oop. The Timberwolves fall behind by eleven at 6:20.
*** Not to be outdone by a fellow big man, Al Jefferson goes to work on the offensive end. A mid-range jumper followed by a layup from Big Al provides a spark for Minnesota. The Lakers are still up though, 19-13, with 3:59 left.
*** Guess it is better to give than receive. Kobe hands out seven assists in the first 12 minutes. Lakers have an 11-point lead at the end of one.
*** Kevin Love keeps the Timberwolves close. He comes off the bench and scores on back-to-back layups to cut the deficit to 43-36 with 6:01 left.
*** Bynum and Bryant are on the same page, that’s for sure. They connect on another well-timed alley-oop to extend the advantage to nine points at 5:18.
*** Bryant gets out in transition and leads the break. Getting into the lane, he draws the defense toward him and drops a behind the back pass to Gasol. With Milicic in his way, Gasol is undeterred, going right to the rim for a dunk. And 1. Consider Milicic as dunk bait. Lakers lead, 57-57, with 1:30 before the break.
*** Kobe closes out the first half by calmly stepping to the line and sinking a pair of free-throws from the charity stripe. The Timberwolves trail by 10 points at intermission.
*** Interesting. Bynum heads to the sidelines after running to get back on defense. Looks like he‘s heading to the locker room. We’re at the 10:09 mark, let’s see if, and when, he returns to the lineup for the Lakers.
*** The Timberwolves take advantage of the missing presence in the paint. Milicic caps a 17-7 run with a jumper, just inside the three-point arc, to tie the score, 68-68, at 4:48. Truth be told, Darko is putting forth a solid effort.
*** Seconds later, Jonny Flynn makes two free throws. Minnesota is up by a bucket now. Since Bynum’s exit, the Lakers have been a bit lackluster. It’s not as if this group hasn’t played extremely well without him in the past.
*** Gasol gets involved. With more space to maneuver down in the low block, he’s active and flexes his muscle, if that’s possible considering Gasol’s toughness has always been questioned. Anyway, he throws down two dunks to give the Lakers some much-needed momentum. They regain the lead, 78-68, at the end of three.
*** Ladies and gentlemen, there’s been a Lamar Odom sighting. He scores five consecutive points to extend the advantage to 12 points at 8:41. The starters are on the bench, perhaps for good. Wonder if the reserves can hold this lead?
*** Milicic converts a couple of baskets inside with 5:18 remaining. Give the Timberwolves credit, they refuse to go away quietly.
*** At 6:07, Phil Jackson elects to go back with Bryant and Gasol, a puzzling move given the fact the Lakers have what appears to be a comfortable 91-80 lead. The Zen Master must have something up his sleeve. Stranger things have happened.
*** Buckets by Jefferson, Love and Flynn make things interesting. The lead is down to seven points. There’s 2:50 on the clock.
*** Odom for three. Assist Kobe. Odom, another three. Assist Kobe. That should just about do it. Lakers win, 104-96.
*** A quick look at the stats reveals that Gasol finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds in 36 minutes of action. So much for being sick a couple of days ago.
*** Well, well, well. Look at what we have here. A double-double for Milicic, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
*** Another shocker. Bryant had more assists, a season-high 13, than he did have shots from the field, 11. All told, Kobe finished with 22 points. Here’s what he had to say about his pass-first mentality against the Timberwolves: “It just depends on the defense they’re playing against you. You just make them pick their poison. Either they play me man-up to start the game or they don’t. They decided to come after me, so I hit my guys and they made shots.” There you have it folks, straight from Mr. Unselfish himself. Bryant added 4 rebounds and 4 steals.