Wolves fall flat vs. Bryant-less Lakers

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 21, 2013 - 6:59 AM

They fell behind early, then fell apart down the stretch in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES – The last time the Timberwolves went to Los Angeles to play the Lakers, they set a franchise record by scoring 47 first-quarter points in a runaway victory that gave them a 5-2 season start and also offered Ricky Rubio’s second career triple-double.

Nobody was feeling nearly that perky after Friday’s 104-91 loss to a Lakers team that was missing injured superstar Kobe Bryant and played without a natural point guard.

Not Ricky Rubio, who missed Friday’s morning shootaround after he was up sick the night before but played 31 minutes on a night when he said understandably he had little energy and neither did many of his teammates.

“I didn’t have energy and I think the team need my energy today,” Rubio said. “Something didn’t feel good. I played through it. I wanted to play and I tried to do my best.”

And not Wolves coach Rick Adelman, either.

Adelman fairly steamed with anger afterward after he watched his team fall behind by 11 points in the first quarter and recover to lead by four points late in the first half before allowed the Lakers a game-closing 14-2 run that decided matter.

“No energy,” he said, echoing Rubio’s post-game comments but for different reasons. “We have to be better than that. We can’t come out and start a game like that. They outworked us all night long.”

Wednesday’s home victory over league-leading Portland pushed the Wolves back to the .500 mark, at 13-13. Friday’s loss sunk them back below it yet again while the Lakers, playing without Bryant and Steve Nash but still with Pau Gasol, got themselves right back to even at 13-13.

“Whatever your record, we have to understand that we’re trying to get somewhere,” Adelman said. “We haven’t arrived anywhere. That team just has the same record we do, so we have to take a long hard look at ourselves and find out what we want to do.”

Bryant will miss the next six weeks after he fractured a bone in his knee just six games after he returned from last year’s season-ending torn Achilles tendon injury. Nash has played just six games this season himself and remains out.

But Gasol, at age 33, just keeps going. Or at least he did Friday.

On Friday, he approached a triple-double with a 21-point, 13-rebound, 8-assist night that included 13 fourth-quarter points, nine of them during that deciding 14-2 finishing flourish.

Gasol came within two assists of his eighth career triple-double while the Lakers kept going without Bryant, Nash or point guards Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar, thanks to 25 points off the bench from Nick Young and 21 from impromptu starting point guard Xavier Henry, a 6-6 shooting guard in real life.

“You know, we keep going through different game plans,” Young said. “One day we had Kobe and one day we didn’t.”

Wolves star Kevin Love reached another double-double with 25 points and 13 rebounds, but he scored only five points after halftime. Meanwhile, Corey Brewer, Dante Cunningham, Alexey Shved and J.J. Barea combined to shoot 6-for-31 from the field.

The Lakers played without their three point guards – all out injured – so they start Henry at the position against Rubio instead. The Lakers’ point-guard injuries concerned Adelman before the game because it left them with only big options — Henry, 6-7 swingman Young and newly signed 6-4 Kendall Marshall, the only real point guard of the bench — against his team.

Henry scored 11 first-quarter points matched up mostly against Rubio and the point guard-less Lakers recorded 13 assists on their first 16 field goals made and committed just three turnovers.

The Lakers led 15-10, 23-14 and 30-19 early and led 35-26 after the first quarter. Those 26 Wolves’ points were only 21 fewer than they scored in the first quarter of that November game at Staples Center.

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