Lakers-Timberwolves Preview

Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol have gotten the Los Angeles Lakers

back on track, helping the team rebound from its first two losses

by leading the way in consecutive victories.

There’s no reason to think the NBA champs won’t push their

streak to three.

The Lakers wrap up a three-game road trip Friday night looking

for a 13th straight win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Los Angeles (10-2) won its first eight games by an average of

12.5 points, getting balanced scoring from Bryant, Gasol and Lamar

Odom while limiting opponents to 42.8 percent shooting.

The Lakers’ defense deserted them in a 118-112 defeat at Denver

on Nov. 11 and Sunday in a 121-116 loss to Phoenix, but Bryant and

Gasol have gotten Los Angeles back on track during the trip. Bryant

had 31 points in a 118-107 win at Milwaukee on Tuesday and scored

33 a night later in Detroit, with Gasol adding 25 points and 12

boards to help the Lakers cruise to a 103-90 victory.

The Lakers jumped out to a nine-point lead after one quarter and

led by as many as 26.

“It was very important to get off to a good start,” said

Bryant, who has scored 30 points in four straight road games. “I

think when you play teams like this, and you give them momentum and

give them energy, all of a sudden you find yourself in a

dogfight.”

Bryant had 33 points in a 99-94 home win over Minnesota on Nov.

9, and though the Timberwolves (4-9) are the only team to hold the

Lakers to less than 100 this season, that’s of little solace to one

of the league’s youngest teams. Los Angeles has averaged 108.7

points in winning 12 straight versus Minnesota, a streak that began

when Bryant scored 50 in a 109-102 win March 18, 2007.

Gasol has been around for nine of those victories, and his teams

have won 12 in a row against the Timberwolves dating to his days in

Memphis. The three-time All-Star has averaged 20.3 points and 14.8

rebounds in his last four games versus Minnesota.

Gasol leads the league with 10 double-doubles – one more than

Minnesota’s Kevin Love, who had 23 points and 24 rebounds against

the Lakers.

Love had 24 points and 14 boards Wednesday against the Clippers,

but it looked like the Timberwolves were about to blow a sizable

lead for the second straight game. Minnesota led by eight with two

minutes left Monday in Charlotte but lost 113-110, then had an

seven-point edge with under four minutes to play Wednesday before a

10-1 Los Angeles run.

That one didn’t end in disaster. Corey Brewer tied the score at

111 with 1:14 remaining and Michael Beasley hit a jumper with two

seconds left – the last of his 33 points – to rescue the

Timberwolves in a 113-111 victory.

Beasley has averaged 32.6 points – 9.4 in the fourth quarter –

in helping Minnesota go 3-2 since Nov. 10.

“I think I’m getting there,” Beasley said of becoming the

Wolves’ go-to guy. “Every game coach (Kurt Rambis) is finding the

confidence in me to close out games. But we’ve got so many guys

that can knock down shots. We’re just waiting for our numbers to be

called.”

Beasley is the first Timberwolves player since Kevin Garnett in

1999-2000 to score at least 25 points in five straight games.