LOS ANGELES (AP)—Some nights, it’s about nothing more than just getting through the game for the Los Angeles Lakers.
That was certainly the case Friday, when Kobe Bryant scored 23 points, Pau Gasol added 21 and the Lakers beat the slumping Minnesota Timberwolves 110-90 to become the first NBA team to reach 50 victories.
“First to 50 is important in establishing dominance,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “We have 20 games left and we’d like to be the first to 60.”
Bryant and Gasol both went 5-for-5 from the line and Gasol grabbed a team-leading nine rebounds as the Lakers won their sixth in a row at home and beat the Wolves for the eighth consecutive time.
“We just played down to the level of the competition,” Jackson said. “Then we elevated our game and played a lot better in the third quarter and the second unit jammed it even further.”
Ryan Gomes scored 20 points and rookie Kevin Love added 18 points and 14 rebounds for Minnesota, which dropped its eighth in a row and fell to 10-20 on the road. Sebastian Telfair had 18 points after missing the last two games with a sore right groin.
“We missed some shots early and had some looks,” Minnesota coach Kevin McHale said. “We hung around for a while, but weren’t able to sustain anything. It got away from us.”
Bryant’s work was done after three quarters, when the Lakers led by 18. That allowed him to lead the cheers from the bench. He was up on his feet when DJ Mbenga came up with a huge block of Rodney Carney midway through the fourth. Shannon Brown’s one-handed dunk brought the entire bench onto the floor.
“We have guys at the end of our bench that on their worst day can hit shots and make plays,” Lamar Odom said.
Mbenga tied his career high with five of the Lakers’ 14 blocked shots. They also had eight steals against a Minnesota team that is missing Al Jefferson and got zero points from Mike Miller in nearly 33 minutes.
The Lakers’ second unit played the final period, giving them valuable experience and the coaching staff a chance to assess their skills ahead of the playoffs.
“We did what we were supposed to do,” Gasol said. “We took care of the game. It was a pretty complete game. If we continue to improve and feel good about ourselves, that’s the main point.”
The Wolves outscored Los Angeles 9-2 behind five points by Love to open the third quarter, leaving them trailing 49-45. That’s as close as Minnesota came over the final three periods. The Wolves shot just 33 percent for the game.
“It was a number of things,” Love said. “There were a lot of things that we could have done better. Tonight was tough, but that is why they are the Los Angeles Lakers.”
Bryant’s jumper sparked a 28-14 run to end the quarter and send the Lakers into the final 12 minutes leading 77-59. Gasol had nine points and Derek Fisher seven in the spurt. But Bryant triggered two of the highlight moments.
He made consecutive 3-pointers, the second off a steal of Shelden Williams’ bad pass, before Josh Powell’s tip-in on a play that began with Fisher’s steal of Gomes’ bad pass. That sequence put the Lakers ahead by 21.
Bryant sat down for good with 1:53 left in the quarter.
“Who doesn’t Kobe toy with?” Love said. “He’s a great player. You hear the chants of `MVP!’ and he’s one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, they make the finals.”
Bryant’s second basket of the game late in the second quarter allowed him to pass Robert Parish for 18th on the NBA’s career scoring list, and he now has 23,354 points. Parish achieved his 23,334 points over 21 seasons, while Bryant is in his 12th year.
When the feat was announced coming out of a timeout, Bryant stuck his right hand in the air to acknowledge the standing ovation and fan chants of “MVP!”
He was mostly quiet until the final 5 1/2 minutes of the period, when Bryant scored the final 13 points to keep the Lakers ahead 47-36 at halftime.
The Lakers swept the Wolves 4-0 for the second consecutive season and are 10-1 in the teams’ last 11 meetings.
Minnesota starter Randy Foye sat out with a hip pointer sustained in practice Wednesday. “Kevin Love tried to take a charge on me and I fell on top of him,” Foye said. “His elbow hit my hip. I finished practicing, but it was real sore and clicking.” … F Sun Yue, sent down by the Lakers to their D-League team earlier Friday to get more playing time, had 11 points and seven assists in the D-Fenders’ 108-103 victory over the Anaheim Arsenal. … Former UCLA star Love was a popular draw in his third trip back to Los Angeles this season. The NBA rookie sat courtside at the Bruins’ game Thursday night and signed autographs for early arriving fans on Friday. Being on a losing team for the first time in his career is tough, he said, adding, “It’s been something I’ve had to adjust to.” … Brazilian soccer star Marta, who will play on LA’s team in the new women’s pro league, sat courtside. Behind her was former Laker and Chicago Bulls player Ron Harper.