MINNEAPOLIS -- Turns out frigid Minnesota was the perfect place for the Los Angeles Lakers to warm up.
The Lakers, losers of eight straight road games entering Friday's game against Minnesota at Target Center, shot the lights out early, then held on late for a 111-100 victory over a Wolves team that has now lost six straight and 11 of 12 games.
And the effort was led by Pau Gasol, whose injury-riddled season has forced him out of the lineup at times, and off the bench at others, much to his dismay. But Friday, with Dwight Howard on his way back to Los Angeles for a procedure on his sore shoulder, Gasol returned to the starting lineup, and he led the way with a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds.
"It was just like old times," Gasol joked afterward. "It was a good feeling out there."
Gasol, Earl Clark (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Kobe Bryant (17 points and 12 rebounds) had double-doubles for the Lakers. Minnesota got 18 off the bench from Alexey Shved, 15 from Derrick Williams and 14 each from J.J. Barea and Nikola Pekovic.
Actually it was like just about every time where the Wolves are concerned. The Lakers (21-26) -- who have now won three of their last four overall -- have now won 20 straight games against the hapless Wolves (17-26). Friday they did it by hitting 10 of their first 13 3-pointers and 22 of their first 30 field goals overall, by building a 29-point lead in the second quarter. And by managing to hold on when the Wolves cut the lead to four on Shved's 3-pointer with 5:55 left.
The theme in the Lakers locker room wasn't so much about the win but about another double-digit lead that almost got away.
"We knew they'd make a run," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We helped them out by not attacking the zone very well. But no, I'm happy (with the win). We just got a good, road win."
It looked like it would be over very early. The Lakers scored 37 first-quarter points and 68 in the first half, both the most by Wolves opponents this year. Gasol had 13 as the Lakers ended the first quarter with a 37-24 lead.
That lead grew to 29 points mid-way through the second quarter after a 20-1 Lakers run filled with 3-pointers. But then a funny thing happened. Wolves coach Rick Adelman went to a zone defense, the Lakers lost some of their aggression, and the Wolves started coming back.
Starting after Nash's 3-pointer gave the Lakers a 61-32 lead, the Wolves went on a 32-11 run over the next 11:11 to pull within eight points with 7 minutes left in the third quarter.
And the Wolves got even closer.
Down nine at the start of the fourth, the Wolves got within four on Shved's 3-pointer and had a chance to get closer, but Pekovic missed two free throws before Gasol's three-point play put the Lakers back in control.
The Lakers shot 56.3 percent in the first half, 27.3 percent in the second. But they managed to hold on.
"It was just a tail of two halves," Adelman said. "The first half we didn't come out with energy and they just made every shot. We went to the zone and we got more active. We communicated a little better. But we just couldn't get over the hump. We were too far down."
And the Lakers? They're not out, not yet. Certainly not Gasol.
"It's been a rough season so far, no way around it," said Gasol, who scored more than 20 points for just the third time this season. "But you just stay with it, keep playing. You never know when things can change direction. Tonight I was able to start, play more minutes, get into a good flow. It was a good game."
NOTES: 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 in the shoulder, 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 re-injected into the joint. He hopes to re-join 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," D'Antoni said. "So we'll have to see." ... Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio, talking about Gasol -- his friend and fellow Spaniard -- 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."