The $100 million payroll Los Angeles Lakers replaced one All-Star with, in better times, another one Friday night at Target Center and proved with a careening 111-100 victory over the Timberwolves that some streaks are just more enduring than others.
Sometimes-superstar Dwight Howard flew home Friday to have his injured shoulder treated, so Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni just moved Pau Gasol from the bench into the starting center spot, swapping one $19 million player for another.
"Nice guy to put in there, Gasol," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "I mean, he's only an All-Star almost every year."
Whether it was an audition for a Wolves team that Ricky Rubio only half-jokingly says would happily take his Spanish pal if the Lakers don't want him or liberation for a proud star headed toward the rock pile in his new coach's up-tempo system, Gasol responded with a decisive performance.
His influence both early and late in Friday's 8:30 p.m. ESPN start ended the Lakers' road losing streak at eight games and extended the Wolves' futility against a franchise that once called its frozen streets home to 20 consecutive losses, dating to March 2007.
The Wolves lost their sixth consecutive game and the 11th in their past 12.
Gasol scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in a first quarter when the Lakers shot their way to a 33-16 lead that ballooned to as many as 29 points by midway through the second quarter.
When the Wolves fought themselves back into the game with a zone defense that perplexed the Lakers' many, well-paid veterans, Gasol repelled them, scoring five straight points that turned a 94-90 lead with six minutes left into a 99-92 advantage a minute later that never was challenged.
"It was a good feeling," a smiling Gasol said after he made only his second start in the past 14 games. "Like the good ol' days."
Teammate Kobe Bryant once again turned facilitator, becoming playmaker more than scorer. He approached a triple-double with a 17-point, 12-rebound, eight-assist game.
The lopsided nature of the series blared for the first 40 minutes.
The Lakers entered Friday's game just two places away from the Wolves in the Western Conference standings, then nearly lapped the home team by midway through the second quarter after building a 61-32 lead.
They got there by making 10 of their first 13 three-point shots. They scored 37 points by first quarter's end and 68 by halftime before the Wolves' improvised zone defense started to trouble them.
"They made every single shot," Adelman said. "No matter who it was."
The Lakers made just two of their final 19 three-pointers but persevered to win on the road for the first time in more than a month, Dec. 26 at Denver.
"It caused us to think," D'Antoni said about the zone defense that allowed the Wolves to make it a game. "And we are just not great in that department."
The Lakers finally won on the road again by outrebounding the Wolves 57-40 -- the most the Wolves have been outdone by all season.
They also did so thanks to Gasol's determined performance, which included 12 rebounds to go with those 22 points.
The Wolves used a 58-33 burst of their own after that horrendous start to pull close in the fourth quarter but could get no nearer than four points.
"You can't get buried to a team like that, as far down as we were," Adelman said.