Lakers reserves Mbenga, Brown put on late show

The game was out of hand early. The score lopsided and low. Another sellout crowd had packed Staples Center on Friday night to watch the Lakers destroy the Minnesota Timberwolves and by the end of the first quarter, most all the suspense was gone.

If ever there was a night to head for the exits early and see if there was something good going on across the street at L.A. Live this was it.

This crowd was savvy, though. Or at least they'd been paying attention to what reserves Shannon Brown and DJ Mbenga had been doing recently and decided it was worth it to stay until the end.

Those who stayed were rewarded by another high-flying play by Brown, and five blocked shots by Mbenga.

"They're two different types of exciting," forward Lamar Odom said. "Shannon Brown is an extreme athlete. He's unbelievable. DJ is so mentally and physically tough. He surprises a lot of people.

"We try to do well every game so those guys can play. They really push us in practice and that's the reason why this team is so good, because practice is so competitive."

Mbenga has played in just seven games this season, but has seen an uptick in his playing time since Andrew Bynum was injured and Chris Mihm was traded.

Mbenga's defensive plays were so sparkling Friday night, at one point the crowd chanted "M-V-P" for him as he shot free throws.

"You can contribute no matter if it's one minute or 10 minutes," Mbenga said. "You've just got to show your teammates and your coach that you're there."

Brown has played in just four games since being acquired from the Charlotte Bobcats last month.

But each time the third-year guard from Michigan State has gotten on the floor, he's produced a YouTube-worthy highlight. This time it was a high-flying windmill dunk off a fast-break that brought the crowd and his teammates to their feet.

"I just try to come in and bring energy at both ends of the court, try and make something happen," Brown said.

The Lakers took Saturday off before beginning a tough three-game road trip against Portland, Houston and San Antonio. They will try to snap a six-game losing streak at Portland's Rose Garden on Monday.

Why have they had such a tough time winning in the Beaver State?

"They always have pretty good teams," center Pau Gasol said. "They have a young team that feeds off the energy in that building and I think everybody gets excited to play against the Lakers."

Odom thinks it's specific to the Trail Blazers, a good team who is really good at home (25-5 this year).

"It's a team that really gets up for us," he said. "We're definitely going to have our concentration caps on. "

Gasol at least will get a warm welcome from his Spanish countrymen Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez, who are key reserves for Portland.

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