Craig Smith almost perfect for Minnesota Timberwolves
Craig Smith traded in his flak jacket for a lighter tank top Sunday night and delivered his best game since returning from a broken rib.
It wasn't enough to lift the Timberwolves to victory, as the Los Angeles Lakers pulled out a hard-fought 111-108 win at Target Center, but Smith said he felt as good as he looked.
"It's feeling better," he said after his 19-point effort.
"During the last week, it's been on and off ... but tonight I felt really good."
It was close to a record night for Smith, who hit his first eight shots before having a layup roll out with 10:04 to play and finished 9 of 10.
The franchise record for most field goals in a game without a miss is eight, by Trenton Hassell on Nov. 4, 2004, at Denver.
As it was, Smith scored four more points against the Lakers than he had in the three games since returning from his rib injury, and the Inglewood, Calif., native said it felt extra good to do so against his hometown team.
"I love playing against L.A.," he said.
"You know, everybody's watching back home. You've got to give them a little show. Can't disappoint them."
On Oscar night, Smith even managed to slip in a movie reference while trying to explain how he was able to get to the basket so often.
"I just tried to Pink Panther my way in," he said.
Done deal: With all physicals taken and Thursday's trade with Sacramento finalized, forward Shelden Williams and point guard Bobby Brown were eligible to play against the Lakers, but coach Kevin McHale decided to hold them out until they have a chance to practice.
"Once they weren't able to practice (Saturday), it pretty much was let them watch one more game," McHale said.
"They'll hopefully have a good practice tomorrow and shootaround Tuesday in Toronto and then can hopefully get a few things where they at least feel comfortable enough."
McHale said he decided to make Brown active for Sunday's game
"just to sit by the coaches and kind of get a feel."
Big shoes: Al Jefferson's season-ending knee injury has meant more minutes for rookie forward Kevin Love, but he's not the only Wolves player affected.
Jefferson's absence also has forced guard Randy Foye into the role of trying to carry the team offensively.
"He's going to find out that it's hard to do. But that's good," McHale said before the game.
"There's nothing you can do about injuries, but what it does do is it does let other people grow."
After scoring a career-high 36 points in Friday night's loss to Indiana, Foye had just 16 on 5-of-13 shooting against the Lakers, and trying to fill a star player's shoes obviously isn't easy.
"It's a lot easier to slide down the scale than it is to slide up the scale," McHale said.
"Randy had to slide up, but it will be a good experience for him. Randy is fearless. It's not like he's afraid to go out there and try it, that's for sure."
Home-court advantage? With an NBA-best 45-10 record coming in, the Lakers didn't need an added edge, but that didn't stop coach Phil Jackson from complaining before the game about the
"loose nets" at Target Center.
His point was that the smaller Wolves wanted to get the ball inbounds quickly so they could push it up the floor.
Asked how he had determined that the nets were loose, Jackson said:
"We came in to shoot around today. They're as wide as the rims. There's no degree of angle at all in the nets."
Briefly: Kobe Bryant hit a breakaway dunk in the third quarter to give him 23,150 career points and move him past Elgin Baylor into 20th place in the NBA's all-time list. Bryant had 28 points to give him 23,164 for his career.
# Former Wolves center Randy Breuer was honored during the game, and former Minneapolis Lakers coach John Kundla and forward Vern Mikkelsen also were in attendance.
# The Wolves observed a moment of silence before the game in memory of Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller, who died Friday at 64 of complications from diabetes.
# Former Vikings defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo sang the national anthem.