Young come off bench to spark Lakers past Timberwolves
By Forrest Lee, The Sports Xchange
Minnesota 91 Los Angeles 104
LOS ANGELES -- Guard Nick Young was in his element. With Kobe Bryant out again and the Los Angeles Lakers needing someone to pick up the slack offensively, Young answered the call.
Young came off the bench to score 25 points, guiding the Lakers to a 104-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves before a sellout crowd of 18,997 at the Staples Center on Friday night.
Young connected on 9 of 14 from the floor, including 4 of 6 behind the arc, as the Lakers prevailed in their first outing without Bryant, who isn't expected to return for at least six weeks after fracturing his knee in Tuesday's win at Memphis.
But Young, guards Xavier Henry and Jodie Meeks and center Pau Gasol picked up the slack, as the Lakers (13-13) claimed their third victory in four games by beating the Timberwolves (13-14).
"We were just jelling, trying to have fun," Young said. "We know we needed this win so we just came together."
Gasol just missed recording a triple-double, finishing with 21 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Henry also scored 21, while Meeks added 17.
"We could go down the whole list of guys who contributed," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They just need to continue to do it and keep their poise. That's just one game but it was a good one."
Forward Kevin Love had 25 points and 13 rebounds to lead Minnesota, while center Nikola Pekovic added 22 points and 13 rebounds. Guard Kevin Martin finished with 14 points.
Young's four-point play with 2:37 remaining in the third gave the Lakers a 77-75 lead. They never trailed again. A dunk by forward Wesley Johnson and another bucket by Young helped the Lakers carry an 81-76 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Minnesota closed to 90-89 after a layup by Luc Mbah a Moute with 5:10 left, but that was as close as the Timberwolves got.
"We win a few games, then we lose a few games, so it's kind of tough for us," said Pekovic, who was 7 of 18 from the field. "I also think we need to learn to close games. Sometimes, we got many games we lost in the last three minutes. It's just a process for us."
Henry scored 11 of his points in the first quarter as the Lakers staked themselves to a 35-26 lead entering the second. Forward Chris Kaman, who had been buried on the Lakers' bench and hadn't played any significant minutes in a month, also gave them a lift, blocking a dunk by Martin and leading to a slam on the other end by forward Wesley Johnson for a 30-19 lead with 2:21 left in the first.
But the Lakers got sloppy in the second quarter, committing 10 of their 13 first-half turnovers and allowing the Timberwolves to grab a 53-51 lead at intermission. Love scored 11 points in the quarter.
Minnesota managed to outscore the Lakers 27-16 in the quarter despite shooting only 38.1 percent (8 of 21) compared to the Lakers' 50 percent (7 of 14). The Timberwolves hit just 38.3 percent (18 of 47) in the half compared to 58.3 percent (21 of 36) for Los Angeles.
Overall, the Lakers shot 53.8 percent (42 of 78) compared to 34.7 percent (33 of 95) for Minnesota.
"We didn't play with energy or hit our shots," said Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio, who managed just six points and seven assists in 31 minutes. Rubio missed the team's shootout with an unknown illness and it wasn't known until less than 30 minutes before tipoff whether he would play.
NOTES: Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni on newly acquired G Kendall Marshall, who signed Thursday: "He had a great college career and trying to find his footing in the NBA. We'll see what he's got." Marshall didn't play against Minnesota. ... Despite the absence of injured G-F Kobe Bryant and the rash of injuries that have plagued the Lakers, D'Antoni still believes the team will make the playoffs. "Yeah, we can get there," D'Antoni said before adding that the team will need the return of its high-profile players, most notably Bryant and PG Steve Nash. "It's pretty simple. We've got to win games." ... The Timberwolves gave one of their best performances of the season in their last visit to LA, hammering the Lakers 113-90 on Nov. 10, when they scored a franchise-record 47 points in the first quarter. They also snapped a 22-game losing streak at Staples to the Lakers.
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