No bumps in road this time as Lakers rout Minnesota to complete 3-0 trip
For all the hand-wringing, all the nervous questions from fans that accompanied a two-game losing streak, the Lakers never wavered.
Way too early for that.
Instead they went out and won three easy games on the road, completing a short trip with a 112-95 victory Friday over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center.
The competition wasn’t great this week, to be sure, but there’s little reason to quibble after a trio of double-digit victories . . . away from Staples Center . . . with one healthy 7-footer . . . and plenty of rest for the starters.
Matt Barnes picked a good time for his best game with the Lakers, scoring 24 points on a night when Kobe Bryant shot poorly and Pau Gasol was outplayed by Darko Milicic.
Barnes was flawless statistically, making all seven of his shots, five of five from three-point range. For kicks, he added seven rebounds and six assists.
It’s exactly what the Lakers hoped for when they signed Barnes to two-year deal as a free agent. Sort of.
“Who could hope for anybody going seven for seven?” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said, smiling. “It’s just not possible. But you want him to play well and his activity was great. Tonight he had a banner night for himself.”
Bryant had 23 points on dreary eight-for-27 shooting but Lamar Odom had a well-rounded 11 points, eight rebounds and seven assists and also played inspired defense against Kevin Love, who was scoreless.
The Lakers’ biggest worry on the trip? The jittery landing on their charter jet Wednesday in Detroit.
They have now won 13 consecutive games against Minnesota (4-10). Their main blemish Friday was the way they defended the cumbersome Milicic.
Unlike previous games, the Lakers weren’t hurt by a point guard or small-ball lineup. This time it was Milicic, of all people. He was better than Gasol, finishing with 23 points and 16 rebounds. Gasol had 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Early in the second quarter, Milicic had 10 points and six rebounds while Gasol had two points and two rebounds.
“We told Pau at halftime the best European center’s on the other team today,” Jackson said. “He laughed.”
The Lakers countered in the first half with Bryant (13 points), Barnes (nine points) and Shannon Brown (seven points) on the way to a 51-41 halftime edge.
There was plenty more Barnes yet to come.
He had 10 points in the third quarter, even converting a four-point play toward the end of it.
“It’s just coming day by day, practice by practice,” Barnes said. “Our second unit takes a lot of pride out there. We played really well tonight.”
Brown had 11 points despite leaving the game briefly after getting poked in the right eye on a drive to the basket.
Other than Milicic and Michael Beasley (25 points), the Timberwolves didn’t offer much on offense.
Love had 31 points and 31 rebounds last week against New York but missed all seven of his shots and took seven rebounds in 34 minutes.
He burned Odom for 23 points and 24 rebounds in the Timberwolves’ 99-94 loss to the Lakers last week. Not this time.
“Lamar was embarrassed because of the last performance,” Jackson said. “I told Lamar after [that] game, ‘I know why Love made the USA team now. He got to practice against you every day.’ So Lamar took that to heart and he went out there with a purpose tonight.”
Said Odom: “I wanted to keep him off the boards as much as possible.”
He was successful. So were the Lakers, their two-game losing streak drifting a safe distance behind them.
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