for this game

Bryant leads Lakers to easy victory over Timberwolves

Dec 5, 2007 - 5:02 AM Jim Beilby PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves had no answer for Kobe Bryant as the Los Angeles Lakers snapped a three-game road losing streak with an easy 116-95 victory at the Target Center on Tuesday night.

Bryant, who entered the contest second in the league at 27.6 points per game, scored 13 of his 20 in the first quarter and created foul trouble for all the Timberwolves tasked with guarding him - including Rashad McCants, Ryan Gomes and Greg Buckner.

While there was a rumor before the game that Kobe Bryant was sick, Minnesota assistant coach Jerry Sichting wasn't buying it.

"How are you going to tell? He's a player like (Michael) Jordan," said Sichting, who was taking over for injured coach Randy Wittman. "Somebody told me that he had the flu, but it doesn't matter with guys like that. He made me sick."

"I felt a little better (Tuesday night) than I did this morning," Bryant said. "I made a point of coming out and being aggressive and trying to set a tone."

The superstar guard totaled his output in just 29 minutes and did not play in the fourth quarter for the Lakers, who secured just their third win in their last eight games.

"It was a matter of our bench coming out and doubling the effort our starters had tonight," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "We were shorthanded in the big department and Chris Mihm came in and did a good job for us tonight."

While the Timberwolves have played well in the first half this season, they have been badly outplayed after halftime of most games. On Tuesday, however, the Lakers opened an 11-point advantage in the opening period and outscored Minnesota, 62-46, in the first half.

"We've been competitive," Sichting said. "But our defense has gone out the window. (They had) way too many drives. They had 28 assists on 44 baskets; they found the open guy all night."

The Lakers led by as many as 23 in the third quarter, but five straight points by rookie Corey Brewer cut the Timberwolves' deficit to 86-68.

But it would be too little, too late for Minnesota, which has been outscored by over 11.0 points per game in the fourth quarter this campaign. It was no different in this one.

"We had turnovers that led to easy baskets, and you can't guard that," Gomes said. "We have to get much better."

Both teams used a balanced attack, boasting six double-digit scorers each.

Sasha Vujacic scored 16 points and Trevor Ariza added 15 for the Lakers, who are 8-0 this season when posting more assists than their opponent. That trend continued on Tuesday as they bested the Timberwolves, 28-11, in that department.

"They shared the ball well," Gomes said. "Everybody focuses on Kobe because he's a great scorer, but he moved the ball, and they found the best shot available."

Al Jefferson continued his strong play for the Timberwolves, collecting 12 points and 12 rebounds - his 12th double-double of the season, third best in the NBA.

"You can't make excuses in this league," Buckner said. "It's going to snowball and get worse. We just have to go out there and fight and stop being tentative against teams like the Lakers."