Wolves record: 15-64
From Phil Miller/NBA.com:
Well, unless they need to nurse injuries. Kobe Bryant sat out for the second straight game, choosing to give his aching knees a break before the games turn far more serious in another week, and Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he would let Bryant decide whether he will play any of the Lakers' final three games. Even without their leader, though, the Lakers appeared to toy with the Wolves for much of the night, particularly in the first half.
Minnesota managed only 34 points by halftime, and trailed by 18 at the break. The Lakers almost appeared to be scrimmaging much of the time, throwing behind-the-back passes and trying impromptu alley-oop plays, including one Luke Walton-to-Jordan Farmar connection that caught the Wolves napping.
But Minnesota, which lost for the 26th time in its last 28 games, showed a spark in the second half, battling back to pull within four points with five minutes to play.
Bryant's visit of leisure to the Twin Cities didn't hurt the Lakers, who pulled together for a 97-88 victory in front of an announced crowd of 20,200 — the fifth-largest turnout in the Wolves' 21-year history.
While the Lakers played without Bryant and center-forward Andrew Bynum (left Achilles' strain), the Wolves struggled through a second consecutive game without forward Al Jefferson, who has an excused absence to be with a hospitalized family member in the Twin Cities area.
Jefferson, the Wolves' leading scorer and No. 2 rebounder, has missed the past two games.
The Wolves could have used Jefferson's rebounding help against the Lakers' tall front line. Without him, most of the rebounding duties fell on Kevin Love.
Kevin Love started for the second straight game in Al Jefferson's place at the power forward spot. Jefferson has not practiced or played since Tuesday as he deals with a personal matter. Love filled in admirably again by cleaning the glass and recording 18 rebounds.
"We're playing much better basketball right now. Like I said, we have these moments, with organization and guys playing together for pockets of games, but we're still not a team (my definition of a team) where guys are really communicating nonverbally out there and communicating verbally defensive wise, where they're really connected at both ends. That only comes over time," Rambis said.
The Wolves hit the practice floor tomorrow afternoon before boarding a plane to New Orleans for the final road trip of the season.