Pau Gasol was inserted back into the starting lineup and recorded 22 points and 12 rebounds to help the Los Angeles Lakers continue their dominance over the Minnesota Timberwolves with a 111-100 victory at Target Center.
Even with All-Star center Dwight Howard back in Los Angeles to have treatment done on his ailing right shoulder, the Lakers raced out to an early lead and held on to snap an eight-game road skid and earn their 20th straight win over the Timberwolves.
Kobe Bryant nearly posted a triple-double with 17 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, while Antawn Jamison and Steve Nash chipped in 18 and 17 points, respectively, for the victors.
The Lakers dropped the opener of their seven-game road trip on Wednesday after squandering a late double-digit lead to the Suns. They saw a 29-point cushion dip to four midway through the fourth quarter Friday before pulling away for their fourth win in five games.
"We knew they were going to make a run," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said of his team nearly squandering another double-digit lead. "We helped them out by not attacking the zone very well, but I'm happy. We just got a good win."
Alexey Shved had 18 points to pace the Timberwolves, losers of six straight.
The Lakers led by as many as 29 in the first half, but made just 16 percent (3-of-19) from the floor in the third quarter to allow the Timberwolves back in it. Minnesota cut its 68-53 halftime deficit to nine, 85-76, entering the fourth.
A Shved 3-pointer had Minnesota as close as four, 94-90, but Gasol answered at the other end with a three-point play off a nice pass from Bryant. After a Chris Johnson bucket made it a five-point game, Gasol and Jamison scored on consecutive possessions around a J.J. Barea miss, and the visitors held on over the final four minutes.
Gasol, in the starting lineup for the first time since Jan. 20, had 13 points in a lopsided first quarter that featured the Lakers shooting a torrid 72 percent (21-of-29) from the field. Earl Clark added 11 in the frame, which ended with the visitors holding a 37-24 advantage.
"They just knocked down a lot of shots," Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams said of the Lakers. "It's pick your poison with them."
The margin reached its high point at 61-32 midway through the second quarter when Nash finished off a 20-1 flurry with one of LA's five 3-pointers during the four-minute stretch.
The Lakers earned their first road win since win Dec. 22 against the Warriors ... Clark chipped in 13 points and 10 rebounds for LA, which held a commanding 57-40 edge on the glass ... Williams totaled 15 points and nine rebounds for Minnesota, which has not beaten the Lakers since March 6, 2007.