Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers cruise past Timberwolves for laugher of a win

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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.

Hassan Whiteside ejected for elbowing Boban Marjanovic in face (video)

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Hassan Whiteside defends himself when questions about his maturity early in his career with the Kings arise:

“That was a long time ago,” Whiteside said. “If they want to think about things that happened four, five years ago, that’s up to them.

“I don’t think it’s something that should follow me, but I really don’t know right now. That was years ago. Things didn’t work out in Sacramento. I worked my way to get back here. I could’ve easily gave up and went back home and just chilled. But I put in the work, and I feel like I’m a hard worker or I wouldn’t be here.”

But then he does something like this.

Gordon Hayward beats buzzer, Mavericks (video)

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 18:  Gordon Hayward #20 of the Utah Jazz during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 18, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Rodney Hood got the Jazz to overtime.

Gordon Hayward took it from there.

This extends Utah’s win streak to eight games and snaps a 10-game losing streak in Dallas. The last time the Jazz won in Dallas? Mavericks guard Deron Williams started – for Utah.*

*Those Jazz brought Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews off the bench. Dang

Rodney Hood sends Jazz-Mavericks to OT (video)

during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 18, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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Up three points and the final seconds winding down, the Mavericks had a great chance to intentionally foul Trey Lyles (a 62% free-throw shooter) with his back to the basket.

Instead, they allowed Rodney Hood to hit this shot and get the Jazz to overtime.

Avery Bradley fouls Khris Middleton, who makes game-winning free throw (video)

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The Bucks led the Celtics led the Bucks by 19 in the fourth quarter and four in the final minute.

But Boston completed its comeback when Jerryd Bayless committed a boneheaded foul on Kelly Olynyk with a second left, shoving Olynyk in the back on the inbound. Olynyk sunk both free throws to tie the game.

Then, Khris Middleton got Bayless off the hook.

Middleton drew a foul on Avery Bradley, who was trying to contest the game-winning shot. The Milwaukee wing made one free throw then intentionally the second, and Jae Crowder couldn’t replicate this.