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KOBE SHAKES OFF INJURY LOS ANGELES - Reflecting on a rare matchup between teams who both run the triangle offense, Phil Jackson wondered before Friday's game how the Lakers would fare against their "mirror image."

In some ways, it was the proper metaphor. In other ways, it was preposterous.

Whereas Jackson's collection of all-stars and experienced role players runs the system with precision and purpose, Kurt Rambis' youthful Minnesota Timberwolves are still in the earliest stages of implementing the offense.

Not surprisingly, the discrepancy in talent and experience eventually resulted in the Lakers' 11th consecutive victory, a comfortable 104-92 win that spoiled Rambis' return to the arena he has called home since it opened.

Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 20 points on 8-for-18 shooting, shaking off the effects of a fractured right index finger he suffered receiving a pass late in the first quarter. Although Bryant had to leave the floor late in the first half to get the finger examined and re-taped, he compensated for the pain as he seemingly always does in the second half, even shooting a handful of shots left-handed.

Blessed with a startlingly cushy early schedule featuring 17 of the first 21 games at home, the Lakers emphasized the importance of capitalizing with a quick start. The victory over the Wolves ensured they would conclude that stretch with the league's best record, an 18-3 mark that Jackson concedes exceeded his expectations.

Up next for the Lakers is, gasp, an actual road trip, beginning tonight in Utah against what should be a highly motivated Jazz team determined to make up for Wednesday's fourth-quarter meltdown in Los Angeles. The rest of the five-game trip doesn't appear all that daunting with four games against sub-.500 Eastern Conference opponents.

It took until the latter stages of the third quarter for the Lakers to ensure their sendoff to Salt Lake City would be a pleasant one. Leading by just six with less than three minutes remaining in the quarter, the Lakers scored the final 12 points of the quarter, holding the Wolves to just a single field goal attempt - a Kevin Love shot in the lane that Ron Artest swatted out of bounds.

Minnesota star Al Jefferson scored 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting and reserve point guard Ramon Sessions made 7 of 9 shots, but their teammates were a frigid 21 of 61 from the floor. The Timberwolves committed 17 turnovers and scored just 14 points in the decisive third quarter.

Although Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum still managed a combined 29 points despite constant double teams, it was the Lakers' guards who took advantage of often being left uncovered behind the three-point arc. Ron Artest had 16 points, while Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar combined for 35 points off the bench.

Reach Jeff Eisenberg at 951-368-9357 or

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: December 13, 2009


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