Pau Gasol had 29 points and 15 rebounds, and the Kobe-less Los Angeles Lakers locked up home court throughout the Western Conference playoffs with a 97-88 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.
Lamar Odom had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the defending champions, who have the No. 1 seed in the West for the third straight season.
Bryant has been bothered by an aching right index finger, which contributed to his 13-for-47 shooting in his previous two games played. Jackson also wants Bryant’s legs to be fresh for a run at another title in a rugged Western Conference that could feature all eight teams with at least 50 wins.
The Lakers built an 18-point lead in the first half, but they haven’t been playing all that well lately and they didn’t put away the 15-win Timberwolves until late in the final period. With Andrew Bynum missing his 10th straight game and Bryant a little dinged up, the Lakers had won just two of their previous seven games.