MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -Lamar Odom and the Los Angeles Lakers didn't take Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves for granted this time.
The defending NBA champions were ready from the start, and that was bad news for a young team that thought it was finally starting to figure things out.
Kobe Bryant had 23 points and eight rebounds, and Matt Barnes scored 24 on 7-of-7 shooting to lead the Lakers to a 112-95 victory over the Timberwolves on Friday night.
Odom dominated his Team USA teammate Love with 11 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Lakers (11-2).
Love, the NBA's leading rebounder, had just seven rebounds and was scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting, a far cry from his 23-point, 24-rebound performance in a five-point loss at Staples Center on Nov. 9.
``Lamar was embarrassed after the first game,' coach Phil Jackson said. ``I told him, 'I know why Kevin made the USA team, because he practiced against you every day.''
The motivated Lakers were too much for the Wolves from the start. By the end, a despondent Love was trudging off the court with teammate Anthony Tolliver's arm around his neck, his historic 31-point, 31-rebound performance against the Knicks last week a distant memory.
``That was probably the most poor game of my career,' Love said. ``I apologize to my teammates, coaches, everybody. I can't have a game like that.'
Darko Milicic had career highs with 23 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks, and Michael Beasley had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolves (4-10).
``I think we enjoyed competing against each other because we did so much this summer,' Odom said of Love. ``It seems like all the guys on the team are having good years. You just want to come out and compete against somebody you consider a friend.'
Barnes signed a two-year, $3.6 million contract in July and has been worth every penny and then some. Jackson calls the second unit ``The Renegades,' and Barnes led the way with seven rebounds and six assists.
With Bryant making just eight of 27 shots, Barnes' sharpshooting couldn't have come at a better time. It was the best game for Barnes since he scored 25 points, including 7 for 8 on 3s, with eight rebounds in Golden State's victory over Philadelphia in 2006.
Pau Gasol chipped in 16 points and 14 rebounds, and the Lakers held Minnesota to 39.6 percent shooting.
Bryant didn't shoot a high percentage, but he gave the many who paid to see him more than their money's worth in the third quarter. He wowed the crowd with a Jordanesque reverse layup, then caught a lob from Derek Fisher in traffic, laid it in and converted the three-point play for a 72-55 lead.
Bryant grabbed all the highlights, but it was Barnes' shot-making that made the difference. He scored the last 10 points of the third for the Lakers, hitting three 3-pointers and turning one into a four-point play to keep the Wolves from creeping back into it.
``That's the depth of our team,' Bryant said. ``Any given night guys can hurt you.'
The Timberwolves came into the game on a hot streak by their standards. Winners of three of the previous five games, the Wolves have gotten impressive performances from Beasley and Love to invigorate a fan base that has been disillusioned by years of losing.
The Target Center was sold out for the first time all season, with plenty of Laker fans turning out to cheer Bryant and the two-time defending champs.
Pregame introductions included a video that read, ``It's happening. The Timberwolves are back.'
Not just yet.
The Timberwolves never got closer than eight points in the second half and the Lakers put it away with a 12-0 run that turned the final seven minutes into garbage time.
``It's disappointing that we lost, the fact that we lost,' Beasley said. ``No matter where we lost, how big the crowd was, how big the game was, just the fact we lost the game. But we can't really let this loss bring us down. We've been playing good basketball as of late. Today was just one of those days. We've just got to keep it moving.'
NOTES: Jackson was asked how Love, who doesn't have a ton of athletic ability, can be so effective on the boards. ``He fouls a lot and gets away with it,' Jackson deadpanned. ... Beasley topped 25 points for the sixth straight game, the first time a Timberwolves player has done that since Kevin Garnett in 2000. ... Wolves rookie Wes Johnson had a rough nigh with just five points on 2-for-9 shooting.
The Associated Press News Service
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