pau gasol

Pau Gasol knew he could play like this. Kobe Bryant and Ricky Rubio did, too. The only person in Laker land who seemed to doubt what the gifted post player could do was the man in charge.

Now maybe coach Mike D’Antoni will become a believer as well.

Gasol had 22 points and 12 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup and Bryant nearly had a triple-double in leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 111-100 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.

”It was a good feeling out there,” Gasol said. ”Like the good old days.”

Bryant had 17 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists and Steve Nash added 17 points and seven assists for the Lakers, who played without Dwight Howard due to a sore right shoulder. They have won four of their last five games and beat the Wolves for the 20th straight time, the longest active streak in the NBA.

”It’s been a rough season so far, no way around it,” said Gasol, who topped 20 points for just the third time this season. ”Just stay with it, keep playing. You never know when things can change direction. Just play your game when you’re out there. Tonight I was able to start, play more minutes, get a good flow. It was a good game.” …

Alexey Shved scored 18 points and Rubio had nine points and seven assists for the Timberwolves, who lost their sixth straight game. They trailed by 29 in the second quarter, but climbed within four in the fourth.

– Reported by Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press