With two 7-footers and 6-foot-10 Lamar Odom in their top six players, few teams in the NBA measure up to the Los Angeles Lakers these days. The Minnesota Timberwolves certainly are not one of them.
Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and the Lakers’ towering front line overwhelmed Kevin Love on the boards in a 90-79 victory over the Timberwolves on Tuesday night.
Gasol had 17 rebounds and 12 points, Bynum had 14 points and seven boards and the Lakers scored 28 second-chance points to overcome a poor shooting night and win their fifth straight game.
"Offensive rebounds, you’ve got to get second-shot opportunities," Bynum said. "Normally we shoot in the high 40s, so there aren’t that many to be had. Tonight was the exception."
Wes Johnson had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Timberwolves, who led for much of the first three quarters before the Lakers asserted themselves.
Love had 13 points and 11 rebounds, his 47th straight double-double. The last time he did not have one was against the Lakers on Nov. 19. But he was just 2 for 10 from the floor and barely kept the longest double-double streak since 1980 alive.
"Their length is a matchup problem for virtually every team in the league," said Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis, a former assistant on Phil Jackson’s Lakers staff. "You can’t account for that length."
Kobe Bryant scored 24 points, but made just 8 of 18 shots in an ugly offensive game for both teams.
The Lakers shot 37.5 percent and the Wolves just 40 percent for the game. The Lakers’ 53-39 advantage on the boards against the best rebounding team in the league was the difference.
"That’s why we’ve been able to win back-to-back championships because we have a great team," Bryant said. "Pieces complement each other extremely well. That’s the trick, that’s the key. Management has done a great job."
Bryant missed nine of his first 13 shots, but delivered just enough of a surge in the third quarter to turn the Wolves away. After a quiet four points on 2-for-8 shooting in the first half, Bryant scored 12 on 5-for-7 shooting in the third quarter as the Lakers erased a five-point deficit.
The Timberwolves, one of the worst defensive teams in the league, delivered one of their best performances on that end of the floor all season. The rookie Johnson harassed Bryant all night, making him work for every open shot, and the Wolves held the Lakers to 22 percent shooting in the first quarter.
The Lakers were awful at the outset, missing 10 of their first 12 shots and shooting 5 for 22 in the first quarter.
"I think we just played down to the competition," said Bynum, whose Lakers have lost to the Cavaliers, the Bucks and the Kings this season.
But they kept the deficit to single digits for the entire first half thanks to incredible play on the offensive glass. Thirteen of their 28 first-half rebounds were offensive and they scored 22 second-chance points.
Bynum was big early with 10 points and four rebounds, using his bulk to push around the Timberwolves frontcourt. But he went to the bench with foul trouble early in the second quarter, and the Wolves played some of the best defense they have all season to lead 45-40 at the break.
Odom added 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers.
The Timberwolves scored just 34 points in the second half, unable to stand up to a Lakers team that didn’t seem to have its best game on Tuesday night.
"It’s tough with not only how strong they are but how long they are," Johnson said. "They pass the ball well too, so it’s definitely hard. Then Lamar comes in the game. It makes it difficult with their size."
NOTES: The Timberwolves announced in the fourth quarter that they reached a buyout with Eddy Curry, who was acquired in a trade with the Knicks last week. … Rambis has been a confidante of Jackson for years, and he was asked before the game if he thought this season really was it for Jackson, who says he is retiring. "It is," Rambis said, "for next year." … Timberwolves swingman Martell Webster missed the game with a back injury that has lingered most of the season. He has missed 33 games this season because of the injury. … The Lakers host the Bobcats on Friday night. Charlotte beat them by 20 on Feb. 14. "Payback," Bynum said.