There haven’t been many of these games for the Lakers this season — Kobe Bryant icing his knees in the fourth quarter, guys joking around on the bench and nobody really stressed about the outcome.
The Lakers created a little space in the second quarter, pulled away in the third behind 11 points from Kobe Bryant (he finished with 33) and the Lakers cruised to a 116-94 win over the Timberwolves. That would be 21 consecutive wins for the Lakers over Minnesota.
The win also moves the Lakers within two games of the Houston Rockets for the eighth seed and final playoff spot in the West, and within two-and-a-half games of the seventh seed Utah Jazz (both of whom lost last night.
The two take always from this game are: 1) The Timberwolves are not very good; 2) The Lakers continue to play a little better each game as they find their identity and play with a little more desperation. Games they lost, leads they gave up in the past they do not now.
The Lakers never took their foot off the gas in this game, leading wire to wire. Kobe was at the heart of that — he pushed the team to grab the lead in the first quarter then was key to them pulling away in the third. He did that by returning more to his scorer mode — but he should have with the looks the Timberwolves were giving him early. Minnesota let Kobe get comfortable and after that, no matter what they did, he was going to be knocking down shots. By the third quarter he was three feet behind the arc and it didn’t matter.
Minnesota actually tried a lot of zone but the Lakers did a good job of attacking the soft middle of the zone and shooting over the top of it. Los Angeles hit 8-of-16 three pointers in the first half and maintained that pace throughout the game — L.A. shot 54 percent overall and 16-of-sf32 from three for the game. Dwight Howard had 11 points and 12 rebounds but was back to being active again, particularly on defense.
Minnesota stayed within striking distance thanks to their guard play — J.J. Barea had 20, Luke Ridnour 19 and Ricky Rubio had 13 points and 13 assists.
This was the kind of laugher the Lakers thought they would have a lot of this season. Hasn’t worked out that way. But they will take the easy, relaxing win any time they can get it.
Report: Trail Blazers receive permission to interview Stephen Silas
Portland also was granted permission Sunday to talk to Silas about being its top assistant, league sources said.
Working for Steve Kerr in Golden State – which propelled Alvin Gentry to Pelicans head coach last year and Luke Walton to Lakers head coach this year – is probably preferable. But Silas’ star is rising, regardless. He’s a highly regarded assistant coach.
Terry Stotts, contract extension in hand, could add Silas without fearing being undermined. That’s the value of giving head coaches security. Hiring good assistants becomes more tenable.
Why would Silas leave another good coach, Steve Clifford in Charlotte, for the Trail Blazers? I don’t know for certain, but in these situations, there’s usually one place to start: money. Portland’s willingness to spend could pay off.
Coaching carousel report: Nate McMillan targets Bill Bayno in Indiana; Dave Joerger to keep Nancy Lieberman with Kings
Bayno, the former UNLV head coach, had not been in the NBA this season but had been with Dwane Casey in Toronto the two seasons before that, and before that had been an assistant with Minnesota and Portland.
Corliss Willamson had been popular with players in Sacramento, as had Nancy Lieberman — but she also had a big fan on owner Vivek Ranadive. She is one of only two full-time female assistant coaches in the NBA (along with Becky Hammond in San Antonio).
Kevin Love steps on referees foot, tweaks knee, sits fourth; expect to play in Game 5
“I think Kyrie [Irving] was shooting towards the end of the third quarter, and I stepped on the official’s foot, and it didn’t feel too great,” said Love, who had a total of 13 points and 11 rebounds in Games 3 and 4. “More so the knee [than the ankle hurting]. Will be sore tomorrow, but nothing that will prevent me from playing.”
Love had seemed to find a groove playing with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to start the playoffs, averaging 18.4 points per game and shooting 44.9 percent from three in the playoffs as the Cavaliers opened the playoffs with 10 straight wins. But like a few Cavaliers, his shooting has gone ice-cold in Canada — he also was rejected at the rim by Bismack Biyombo. Frye has played in crunch time because he is hitting shots.
“I had a lot of great shots, I just didn’t knock them down,” Love said. “It’s a simple as that. I had a lot of confidence in shooting the ball, a lot of really wide open 3’s, especially to start that first quarter. A number of them went in and out, so I just need to continue to stay aggressive.”
This series is knotted 2-2, and the Cavaliers need Love to find his shot before Wednesday night’s Game 5 — the Cavaliers have a series on their hands.
Kevin Love shut down at the rim by Bismack Biyombo (VIDEO)
His biggest play of the night was this clean block of Kevin Love at the rim. Love passed to LeBron James in the post, caught his defender napping and cut the rim, got the pass back from James and… denied.
Biyombo also got LeBron James at the rim but was called for a foul much to the dismay of Biyombo, Raptors fans, and the ESPN broadcast crew (it was the right call — watch Biyombo leap across the lane, he is anything but vertical, he contacts LeBron’s body, that’s a foul). Either way it’s worth watching.