Kobe Bryant, Lakers extend winning streak to 19 games over Wolves
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If the Minnesota Timberwolves want to end their 19-game losing streak to the Los Angeles Lakers, it is going to have to wait until next season.
The Lakers made it a clean season sweep over the Wolves with Friday night's 97-92 decision in L.A., and the road team never really appeared to have a chance.
Kobe Bryant -- clear facemask and all -- led the way with 28 points for the Lakers, who have beaten the Wolves 12 straight times on their home court.
The Wolves cut the lead to six points midway through the fourth quarter on a Kevin Love jumper. But the Lakers never relinquished momentum, stifling every run by the Wolves with one of their own.
Love played despite a sprained thumb he suffered on Thursday night and once again was the leader for the Wolves, scoring 27 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in a losing effort.
The Wolves now fall to 1-2 on a seven-game road trip that will go a long way in determining if they are indeed a team that can finally end their playoff drought despite losing point guard Ricky Rubio for the season.
Love had missed the last two games against the Lakers because of a bout with the flu in February and back spasms one week ago Friday -- the same game in which Rubio blew out his left knee.
Any questions about Love's thumb were answered pretty quickly. The leader of the Wolves started out strong, scoring nine points and grabbing seven rebounds in the first quarter.
The Wolves were within four points at the start of the second, but it was there where the Lakers flexed their muscles on their home court, leading by as many as 15 in the first half before Love cut the lead down to nine points with his second 3-pointer of the game.
The second half was more of the same, with the Wolves never really doing enough to get into the game and the Lakers never really doing enough to completely bury them.
Along with Love's typical 20 and 15, the Wolves once again got a double-double from Luke Ridnour, who continues his strong play without Rubio. The veteran scored 12 points and dished 11 assists.
The Wolves got production from their starters, but the same couldn't be said about the bench they usually rely on. Without Michael Beasley, the bench mustered just 19 points, while Matt Barnes scored 17 alone off the Lakers bench.
The Lakers essentially flirted with the Wolves throughout the game. Whenever the Wolves made a bucket or two, Bryant and the Lakers would answer right back. The score looked closer on paper than it did on the court.
0: Leads in the game for the Wolves.
20: Points for Nikola Pekovic, who continues to be a fixture in the offense for the Wolves. He was the second leading scorer behind Love.
18.2: Percentage from behind the arc for the Wolves, who struggled from distance, shooting just 4 of 22.
Beasley once again sat out with the sprained big toe that kept him out of Thursday's loss at Phoenix. He suffered the injury in Monday's 127-124 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Beasley has now missed 13 games this season, with the bulk of them coming earlier in the season, when he sprained his foot and subsequently lost his starting spot and has been coming off the bench since Jan. 27.
The Wolves are 16-16 with Beasley in the lineup and 14-11 and since he started coming off the bench.
The California three-step continues Sunday, with the Wolves heading to the capital city to take on the Sacramento Kings.
The Wolves won the first two meetings against the Kings (14-29), both at Target Center, 99-86 on Jan 16 and 86-84 on Feb. 7. This is the first game this season at Arco Arena after the Wolves were 1-0 there a season ago, which was only one of five road wins the entire season.
From there, the Wolves have their first of three games this season against the Golden State Warriors (18-22). A year ago the Wolves were 1-4 against the Warriors.