It's been an arduous journey to say the least. Fifteen hours in the air, two delayed flights, severe lack of sleep and jetlag. The words of The Game still ringing in my ears from the flight , "California ain't a state, it's an army". I made it though. Starting5 is currently in the inner sanctum of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. I could only dream about this type of thing when I was a kid. It's the next best thing to being in the NBA. Walking down the same causeway that players use to enter the building made me feel like I was a part of the game. I could hear the voices of Lakers broadcasters Stu Lantz and Joel Myers in my head, "Here he comes Stu, the upstart writer from Australia…."
At least Southern Cali has turned the weather on. A perfect day blending into a cooler night.
Word coming out of Laker land is that Kobe Bryant is questionable for tonight. A sprained left ankle is bothering him, hopefully the typical Bryant resolve and determination will allow him to play, otherwise it will be the second year in a row that I will have flown from Australia to watch the Lakers play only to have Kobe miss. He missed a game against the Warriors that I attended last year. Those of you who know me will understand the contempt in which I hold the Lakers. If Kobe misses tonight's game, even more reason to root against them.
The Lakers enter tonight's game winners of 9 of their previous 10 games while the Timberwolves are playing for nothing but pride. Which is all you can do when your record is 17-52. I will make a bold prediction right now though, Kevin Love will grab a rebound at some point tonight. Don't ask me why I feel like that but I think he may. Tip off 45 minutes away. Stay tuned for the play by play blogging.
– To get to my media seat I had to walk behind the benches just as the Lakers were coming out to I might add. Shivers went down my spine. #basketballjunkie
– Kobe is playing. Lucky. We just avoided a protest by the sole Australian media representative at Staples.
– I think Kevin Love may have recorded a double-double in warm up's alone
– Love gets a nice reception by the Laker crowd at introductions too. Former UCLA star. Rambis gets nice applause too.
– Matt Barnes and Luke Walton have gone back to the locker room already. Not sure if it's just for treatment. Didn't see anything happen during warm-up.
– Lakers starting Bryant, Fisher, Bynum, Artest and Gasol. Standard. Wolves have Milicic, Beasley, Love, Ridnour and Wes Johnson
– Artest is playing some aggressive D on both Beasley and Love
– Great team D actually. Forcing bad Wolves shots and turnovers
– Artest just took the ball off Milicic in the Lakers half and layed it off to Bynum for an easy dunk
– Timeout Minnesota with 6:14 left, down 13-9
– Barnes and Walton are back on the bench. Obviosuly wasn't anything serious. The Lakers are really sharing the ball up to this point. Starting five has 4 assists on 6 made baskets thus far.
– Nice fastbreak run by the Woves, ball didn't touch the floor after 3/4 court. Beasley finishes the Love alley
– Somehow the Wolves have taken the lead, 19-15. Timeout LA
– Lakers look like they're playing a weak opponent in mid-March. Haven't had much zest the last two minutes of play.
– Lakers end the quarter on a 6-2 run. Quarter time Wolves lead 27-21.
– Lakers are getting straight out hustled right now.
– Kobe and Bynum are back in. Lakers bench didn't really give them much spark in that 5 minute stanza
– Already Kobe is back in the swing of things. Pass to Steve Blake for an easy three
– Gasol top scorer for the Lakers with 16 points and Kevin Love has 3 points and 7 rebounds for the Wolves
– Sidenote : The amount of good looking girls at the Staples Center is ridiculous. Note to self, must inquire about moving to LA and season tickets.
– Minnesota look good when they get out in transition. Flynn and Love combine for a fastbreak deuce. Wolves lead 44-40. 2:45 left
– Kobe hasn't scoed yet but his footwork in creating distance between him and defenders is second to none. That's experience. LeBron as great as he is hasn't learnt how to do that quite yet.
– Technical foul on Ron Artest for taunting Beasley after scoring a bucket
– Kobe creates space, launches a long three, is now on the board for the night….make that back to back three's. Game tied at 49.
Half-time Wolves 51-Lakers 49
– Kevin Love had a double-double by halftime. 12 points and 11 rebounds. He is incredible.
– Bynum just spaces the floor so well for these Lakers. Whoever thought about trading him off this team for Melo must have been high on something. He is really their nucleus.
– Just noticed Kobe hasn't started the second half. perhaps the ankle sprain is bothering him?? We'll see if and when he returns.
– Wes Johnson is a nice player for Minnesota. Having a nice game offesnively and defensively. 21 points and a couple of blocks.
– Here comes Kobe. Will enter at the next dead ball.
– Even though he's only been held to 6 points tonight the Timberwolves still respect Kobe's ability. Three defenders converge once he's in the painted area.
Timeout Minnesota. They lead 70-68 with 2:43 left in the third quarter. Some people have even started a faint "we want Taco's chant". Team's gotta win first.
– Minnesota has had an answer for every Laker challenge so far. Especially Wes Johnson. He has 27 points.
– Kobe at the line. The mandatory MVP chant has begun. Sorry Laker fans, not this year. It's all Derrick's.
– Shot by Martell Webster ruled after the buzzer. Lakers take the lead on the back of Kobe's last 5 points. Lakers have the lead, 78-74. You get the feeling that the Wolves may be running out of steam now.
– Michael Beasley is heating up. A J and a long three has the Wolves back within one. 82-81. The NBA's low tolerance of players complaining is long gone because Beasley was going off about a non-call for a while there.
– Such a fan of Lamar Odom. He's in my top 5 favorite players in the Leage. So versatile. He can play any role on this team and does it all so well.
– Beasley just got T'd up after a hard foul by Andrew Bynum. Beasley fell to the ground very hard and began yapping his mouth at Matt Barnes. Bynum has been ejected after getting a technical following his flagrant.
– Ensuing play after the foul shots sees Beasley take a shot in the thigh. Leaves game and heads back to the bench.
– So much for running out of steam. Martell Webster just hit a tough shot and drew the foul on Kobe. Bryant is still down. And one for Webster
– Lakers take the lead on a Derek Fisher fastbreak and this crowd is LOUD right now!!!!! 93-91 Lakers.
– Long three from Lamar. Lakers lead 100-94. Defense has turned up by LA. Forcing young Wolves team to play the Lakers game now, Bad shots and turnovers. Kobe's not gonna let this slip from here.
– Wolves botch two attempts at the basket on a fast break. Lakers grab the rebound. :30 seconds left. LA up 104-96. I'm heading off early. Get ready for the press conference, hopefully Phil Jackson has some interesting quotes.
– Final score Los Angeles 106 – Minnesota 98.