The Lakers are in the final game of a successful three game home stand, playing host to the Minnesota Timberwolves (1-7), a team they have owned as of late. LA came into the contest looking for their 11th consecutive win versus the Wolves, as the win would give the highest scoring team in the NBA a league best 8-0 record.
Bryant, coming off a 3-11 shooting night on Sunday versus Portland showed early that the bad shooting performance was not going to linger. Offensively he took full advantage of rookie Wesley Johnson, who had the defensive assignment guarding Kobe, scoring six of the first eight points for LA, by using an array of jab steps before shooting a pull up jumper or taking one dribble and shooting the 12ft jump shot that looked pure and simple. Very hard to defend when he is focused on the little aspects of his game, took full advantage of a rookie defending, anytime Johnson would go under the screen, Bryant made him pay with by moving into the open spot and knocking down the shot, or cutting backdoor with full intensity.
Bryant has great use of his body when back is to the basket, really felt out the defender and understood where the double team was coming from, along with where the open look would be. Knocked down jumpers from the baseline and top of key with a high consistency, had deep range on his one dribble pull up, and knew he was hot when he pump faked on a three seconds before the half and knocked it down getting the foul called in the process. His assertiveness in the first half payed off, scoring 23 points on 9 of 15 shooting.
Bryant had great bounce in his first step, allowing his jumper to flourish and his defense to stand out. He held Wes Johnson to 3-11 shooting, caused 3 turnovers, and grabbed 6 boards of his own. Kobe’s knee doesn’t seem to be an issue early in the season as many assumed it would be, as he has had a few huge games already this season. He’s currently averaging 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists, a great line to average months after surgery.
Pau Gasol played another great game coming off his 4th career triple double posted on Sunday. He finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks. Pau playing well is an important part of the Lakers run while Andrew Bynum is out rehabbing his knee. The teams next game is Thursday night @ Denver (4-4). The Nuggets are coming off a 31-point blow out loss to Indiana; this should be interesting as the Lakers look to keep their undefeated record intact.