The $100 million payroll Los Angeles Lakers replaced one All-Star with, in better times, another one Friday night at Target Center and proved with a careening 111-100 victory over the Timberwolves that some streaks are just more enduring than others.
Sometimes-superstar Dwight Howard flew home Friday to have his injured shoulder treated, so Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni just moved Pau Gasol from the bench into the starting center spot, swapping one $19 million player for another.
"Nice guy to put in there, Gasol," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "I mean, he's only an All-Star almost every year."
Whether it was an audition for a Wolves team that Ricky Rubio only half-jokingly says would happily take his Spanish pal if the Lakers don't want him or liberation for a proud star headed toward the rock pile in his new coach's up-tempo system, Gasol responded with a decisive performance.
His influence both early and late in Friday's 8:30 p.m. ESPN start ended the Lakers' road losing streak at eight games and extended the Wolves' futility against a franchise that once called its frozen streets home to 20 consecutive losses, dating to March 2007.
The Wolves lost their sixth consecutive game and the 11th in their past 12.
Gasol scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in a first quarter when the Lakers shot their way to a 33-16 lead that ballooned to as many as 29 points by midway through the second quarter.
When the Wolves fought themselves back into the game with a zone defense that perplexed the Lakers' many, well-paid veterans, Gasol repelled them, scoring five straight points that turned a 94-90 lead with six minutes left into a 99-92 advantage a minute later that never was challenged.
Gasol replaces Howard, and the Lakers win over Wolves again
Minneapolis Star Tribune | Feb 2