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Lakers 111, Timberwolves 100

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS - It turns out frigid Minnesota was the perfect place for the Los Angeles Lakers to warm up.

The Lakers, losers of eight straight road games, ended that streak on Friday with a 111-100 victory over a Minnesota Wolves team that has lost six straight games and 11 of its last 12.

In a game between two teams trying to find a way back into the Western Conference playoff chase, the Lakers (21-26), now winners of three of their last four games overall, used a blistering start to take care of matters early.

Pau Gasol, starting at center for the injured Dwight Howard, had 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who had six players score in double figures, including Antawn Jamison (18), Steve Nash (17) and Kobe Bryant, who had 17 points and 12 assists. Los Angeles scored more points in the first quarter (37) and in the first half (68) than any Wolves opponent this season. Los Angeles, shooting the lights out early (hitting 22 of their first 30 field-goal attempts), used a 20-1 second-quarter run to build a 29-point lead, then held on when things got tight.

Down 12 early in the fourth quarter, J.J. Barea hit a three-pointer and Alexey Shved had five points in a 10-2 run that pulled the Wolves within 94-90 on Shved's three-pointer with 5:55 left. But Gasol responded with the first five points in a 9-4 run that put the game away.

Minnesota (17-26), which lost for the 20th straight time to the Lakers, got 18 points from Shved, 15 from Derrick Williams and 14 from Barea.

Very little time was wasted by the Lakers. Gasol scored 13 points and the Lakers went 5-for-7 on three-pointers while taking a 37-24 lead after one quarter. It five points more than the Wolves had allowed in any quarter this season.

The second quarter started out worse for Minnesota. The Lakers, playing mainly reserves, used a mid-quarter 20-1 run to grab a 61-32 lead.

At that point the Wolves finally made a stand. Point guard Ricky Rubio, back in the game, got the Wolves going. He had seven points, four assists and two rebounds as the Wolves ended the half on a 21-7 run to pull within 68-53.

The Wolves kept going with an 11-4 run to start the third quarter. That sure was completed when Luke Ridnour stole the ball at one end and finished at the other to pull the Wolves within 72-64 with 7:11 left in the third. At hat point, the Wolves had out-scored the Lakers 32-11 over the previous 11:11.

They had the chance to get closer, but Nikola Pekovic missed two free throws and Rubio missed a jumper. Meanwhile, Nash scored five straight points and had an assist as the Lakers pushed the lead back to 15. That's the way it stood before Minnesota scored the final six points of the quarter - the final three on Shved's long jumper - to make it a nine-point game entering the fourth.

Notes: Lakers center Dwight Howard will return to Los Angeles to have a procedure down on his sore right shoulder. Howard, who has been bothered by a torn labrum, will have a platelet-rich plasma procedure done, in which his blood is removed, spun in a centrifuge to produce a platelet-rich mix, then injected back into the joint. Howard hopes to rejoin the Lakers in time for Sunday's game in Detroit. "He'll play when there is no pain and that will be day-to-day," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said after morning shootaround. "So we'll have to see." ... Rubio talked about Gasol -- his friend and fellow Spaniard -- and said the Lakers were not treating Gasol fairly. "If they don't want him," Rubio joked, "we are more than welcome to get him." To which D'Antoni responded: "When he gets a team he can coach, he can make that decision."
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