With Kobe Bryant back on the shelf and without a healthy true point guard, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, 104-91.
The Lakers struggled in the first half as their offense was plagued by turnovers, but their defense and hot shooting kept them in the game until the offense was able to hit its stride.
In Bryant’s absence, the Lakers reverted back to a balanced attack with four players scoring in double digits, led by Nick Young.
Young scored 25 points off the bench and shot four of six from 3-point land. Normally regarded as just a scorer, Young managed to hand out four assists, but did have five turnovers in his sporadic attempts to play the role of a point guard.
Pau Gasol nearly recorded a triple-double, finishing with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists. Five of Gasol’s assists came in the first quarter as he helped the team adjust to life without a point guard.
Thrust into the starting point guard role, Xavier Henry responded with 21 points, four assists, and four rebounds. It was Henry’s fourth game this season with 20 or more points.
The Lakers turned the ball over 19 times, but were able to offset them by holding the Timberwolves to 34.7% shooting. Timberwolves forward Kevin Love finished the game with 25 points and 13 rebounds, and was held scoreless in the fourth quarter.
The win moved the Lakers back to .500 and improved their record without Bryant to 11-9. As was the case when Bryant was rehabbing his Achilles injury, the Lakers simply need to find a way
With offensive balance, consistent 3-point shooting, and active defense, the Lakers will give themselves the opportunity to remain competitive until Bryant is able to return.
Aiding the Lakers cause to keep things headed in the right direction with Bryant out is the camaraderie of the team is much better than last season’s.
Gasol and head coach Mike D’Antoni have had their share of run-ins, but as a whole, this group of Lakers appear to enjoy playing with each other.
Newly signed point guard Kendall Marshall did not play on Friday, but figures to crack the rotation once he is able to practice with the team.
The Lakers will fly north to take on the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. PST.