Timberwolves Wrap: Kobe Carries Lakers over Wolves

Feb 2, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) defends Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) in the second half of the game at Staples Center. Lakers won 119-115. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 2, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) defends Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) in the second half of the game at Staples Center. Lakers won 119-115. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

In the third meeting between Minnesota and Los Angeles this season, Kobe Bryant turned back the clock to terrorize the Timberwolves one last time.

Kobe poured in 38 points — cruising past his season-high of 31 — while adding 5 rebounds and 5 assists in his best game of a season that’s mostly been focused on his poor play.

Lou Williams added 20 points of his own, and D’Angelo Russell had one of his most effective games of the season in putting up 18 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Andrew Wiggins turned it on in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 of his 30 points in an attempt to bring the Wolves back from a deficit that was as large as 16 points. It wasn’t quite enough, however, as the Lakers (and Kobe in particular) always had an answer.

The Timberwolves had yet another fast start to the game, jumping out to a 20-12 lead on 10-13 shooting in the first six minutes. After that point, things turned ugly for the Wolves, as they only scored six points in the rest of the quarter while bad defense allowed the Lakers to take a 27-26 lead into the second frame.

Karl-Anthony Towns picked up two fouls in the first quarter and sat for a good chunk of the second as a result. Without him on the court, along with some odd rotations, the Wolves defense surrendered a bunch of easy buckets. The Lakers took a 66-52 lead into halftime, with the Wolves playing pretty badly after the opening six-minute stretch of the game.

The Wolves used 11 players on a night where Kevin Garnett, Kevin Martin, and Nikola Pekovic all sat out. If there were a good time to tighten the rotation and give the young guys more minutes, this would be the night.

However, Damjan Rudez, Andre Miller, and Adreian Payne were all thrown out there, and Rudez even somehow got 14 minutes. Another game, another odd coaching/rotation decision from Sam Mitchell.

The third quarter saw more of the same bad play from the Wolves. The offense wasn’t nearly as effective as it should have been against a terrible Lakers defense, and while the defense was decent, Kobe and Lou Williams both continued to shoot well on contested jumpers.

After starting the fourth down 92-81, the Wolves got themselves going with a 12-4 run, cutting the lead to just three points and making it seem like they actually wanted to win this game, which wasn’t very apparent after watching the team slog through the middle two periods.

The Wolves finally took a 102-101 lead with 5:15 remaining in the 4th, but then Kobe hit back-to-back threes (one open coming off of a screen, one heavily contested by Wiggins) to put the Lakers back up for good.

The Wolves cut the lead to as little as one point with under two minutes remaining, but Kobe was able to ice the game with a jumper and six free throws in the final 16 seconds.

It was mostly just a frustrating game to watch for Wolves fans. After how well the Wolves had played recently, they really dropped the ball against the worst team in the West. This should have been a win in the middle of a tough stretch of the schedule, but the Wolves just couldn’t pull it off.

Tweet of the Night

Makes sense, right? Towns, one of the Timberwolves’ top 2 scoring options, could do some serious damage against poor defenders in Bass and Randle.

Instead, Towns ended up with just nine (9!) shots in 32 minutes. There were very few plays that were run specifically for KAT against a bad defensive team. I’d make some sort of snide comment about Coach Mitchell’s playcalling, but I realize that you probably already did in your head anyway.

Clips of the Night

This was just one of Ricky’s ridiculous passes this game. He had another one to Shabazz Muhammad later in the game that was just as insane. His shooting is still frustrating, but he is undoubtedly the best passer in the game at present.

Wiggins used a Kobe move in the clutch while being guarded by Kobe. There was something poetic about it. Also, in the clip, you can see Wiggins smiling and telling Kobe, “I got that from you!”

Even though Wiggins isn’t quite a dominant all-around threat yet, his ability to get buckets is already extremely impressive and just continues to get better. If he can already pull off this Kobe shot at 20 years old, just try to imagine his ceiling on offense.

Star of the Night

Kobe Bryant – 38 points (10-21 FG, 7-11 3P, 11-12 FT), 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals

Who else would it go to? The Black Mamba had a vintage performance, with those seven threes being his most in eight years according to the Lakers’ official Twitter account.

If you weren’t able to see the game, be sure to look up the highlights. They will be filled with Kobe’s shots, and it was mesmerizing to see him take over a game one more time.

Notable Timberwolves Lines

Andrew Wiggins – 30 points (13-20 FG, 1-2 3P, 3-6 FT), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks

Wiggins had a productive night, but the stat sheet doesn’t tell the whole story. He was aggressive on the boards and put himself in position for rebounds more than he has in most games this season.

He also only tallied one assist, but he made some nice passes out to open three-point shooters who missed their shots. This was a good Wiggins game, and hopefully performances like this begin to occur more regularly.

Gorgui Dieng – 19 points (6-9 FG, 0-2 3P, 7-9 FT), 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal

I wanted to highlight Gorgui here because he played an all-around awesome game and has been playing really well for the past few weeks. He has slid into Garnett’s starting spot and has exhibited some great chemistry with Towns. That bodes well for the future, and it should begin to translate into some wins for the Wolves.

Ricky Rubio – 10 points (4-10 FG, 0-2 3P, 2-2 FT), 15 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 turnovers

The Timberwolves broadcast noted how Ricky’s assist/turnover ratio in the 5 games leading up to this one was an incredible 49/4. He just continued to add to that streak during this game, pushing that ratio to 64/6. That’s better than 10 assists for every turnover, which is just crazy considering that teams only play him to pass.

Who’s got next?

The Wolves will stay at the Staples Center and face the Clippers there tomorrow night. It will be another late start time (9:30 CT) as it is the second-half of a doubleheader on ESPN.

Next: Andrew Wiggins' Sophomore Slump

The Wolves will hopefully get back to playing the good basketball they displayed in the previous several games leading up to the Lakers game. If they play up to their opponent, they may be able to swipe a win from a shaky Clippers team.