With Kevin Love ill, Wolves fall flat, let Lakers run away in 2nd half
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNEAPOLIS -- Heading into the Wednesday's game, it appeared the Los Angeles Lakers would be without their best player and have to play short-handed. But it was the Minnesota Timberwolves who had to make due without their superstar in a 104-85 loss.
With Kobe Bryant in the lineup, the Lakers dismantled the Kevin Love-less Wolves, who thought they might have a chance to steal a game on the Lakers' home court for the first time since 2005 if Bryant couldn't play.
Love tweaked his ribs on Tuesday in a victory over the Clippers, but it ended up being a flu bug that had bothered him since before the All-Star break. Bryant, meanwhile, wore a plastic mask after being cleared to play just three days after suffering a broken nose and a concussion.
Always one with a flair for the dramatics, Bryant played inspired basketball, finishing with 27 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in 31 minutes as the Lakers' lead expanded to as much as 27 before they cleared the bench.
Derrick Williams was given the start in place of Love after scoring 27 against the Clippers a night earlier. But he and the Wolves appeared to be suffering from a victory hangover, coming out sluggish and trailing by as many as 15 points in the first quarter.
They trailed by six at halftime, but that was as close as they got. A disastrous third quarter saw them trailing 83-59 heading into the fourth, their fate already sealed.
Williams followed up his big game with evidence it may have been more of a mirage. The rookie scored 10 points -- three of which came on a meaningless 3-pointer with a minute left -- on 4-of-8 shooting with six rebounds, one assist and two turnovers.
Michael Beasley, who reportedly was offered to the Lakers for a first-round pick in a trade offer Los Angeles turned down, didn't do much to make them regret the decision. He scored 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting and, like a lot of Wolves, looked largely disinterested in the game.
The lone bright spot was another productive game for Martell Webster. He scored a team and season-high 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 21 engaged minutes.
The Wolves were outscored 33-15 in a third quarter and that was it.
1: Player in the starting lineup to reach double-figures. Nikola Pekovic scored 10 points with Luke Ridnour being the next closest with eight.
2: Appearances for Anthony Randolph since Feb. 1 after he entered the game with 6:48 left in the third quarter Wednesday. Randolph made sure to pad his stats while the game was well in-hand for the Lakers, scoring 12 points and grabbing nine rebounds over 12 minutes in which it seemed he was the only person still trying.
27: The deficit the Wolves faced midway through the fourth quarter, the largest of the season.
• J.J. Barea left the game with a strained calf and did not return after being listed as doubtful. He is questionable for Thursday's game at Phoenix.
• Love's flu symptoms were first reported after last Wednesday's 100-98 victory over the Utah Jazz where Love struggled through 37 minutes, shooting just 3 of 14 from the field and scoring 10 points. He will also be questionable at Phoenix.
The Wolves boarded a flight after their two-game stay at the Staples Center directly to Phoenix, where the freshly rested Suns await. In another one of the scheduling quirks in this thrown-together lockout season, the Suns (14-20) haven't played since Feb. 22 and will play their first post-All Star break game while the Wolves will be playing their third.
The Wolves get Friday off after their back-to-back-to-back dip to start the second half of the season but won't be headed home quiet yet. A Saturday night game in Portland against the Trailblazers awaits the Wolves before they finally return home to Target Center for a four-game homestand starting with the Clippers on Monday.
From there, the dreaded seven-game, 12-day road trip begins with stops in Phoenix, Utah, Los Angeles (Lakers), Sacramento, Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma City -- a stretch that could very well determine the fat of the Wolves' season.