The Minnesota Timberwolves entered this season with a 22-game losing streak against the Los Angeles Lakers, but that has changed since they haven’t had to face Kobe Bryant in 2013-14.
It doesn’t mean Minnesota coach Rick Adelman knows what to expect from Los Angeles on Friday night.
The Timberwolves can capture the season series for the first time in eight years against the visiting Lakers, who will again be without Pau Gasol.
Minnesota (35-35) ended its run of futility against Los Angeles with a 113-90 rout Nov. 10. Ricky Rubio had a triple-double and Kevin Love had 25 points and 13 boards as the Timberwolves enjoyed a 50-32 edge in points in the paint.
The Lakers (24-47) evened the season series with a 104-91 win Dec. 20. Nick Young scored 25 and Gasol added 21 points, 13 boards and eight assists.
Love and Kevin Martin combined for 63 points in Minnesota’s 109-99 win Feb. 4 that ended an 11-game home slide in the series. Gasol missed that contest with a strained right groin, and will sit out his third straight contest Friday due to vertigo.
Adelman expressed sympathy for counterpart Mike D’Antoni and says he is not sure what the Lakers will bring to the court.
"They’re really difficult to figure out," Adelman said. "I mean they really, I don’t know, people doubt all over them, Mike and everything else and they had nothing but injuries. You can’t exist in this league. They had four point guards and they lost them all and they went through a terrible stretch."
Minnesota will be favored to capture the season series for the first time since winning three of four meetings in 2005-06.
Center Nikola Pekovic could miss his seventh straight game with a sore right ankle, but rookie Gorgui Dieng has been stellar in starting every game in Pekovic’s absence.
Dieng had 15 points and 15 rebounds in Wednesday’s 107-83 rout of Atlanta. He’s averaging 14.0 rebounds and 12.6 points in his last six games while shooting 59.2 percent.
"I just love playing basketball, whether it’s in the street, outside, wherever," said Dieng, who averaged 1.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 33 games before taking Pekovic’s starting spot. "I just love playing basketball. I chose to be a basketball player, so I need to make it fun."
The Lakers missed a chance at a three-game win streak with a 108-105 loss at league-worst Milwaukee on Thursday. Jordan Hill had 28 points and 16 rebounds, while Young added 17 points.
Young said the Lakers can’t overlook any team, no matter its record.
”This is the NBA where anyone can win on any night,” he said. ”You have to give them credit. They were more aggressive than we were at the end and really took it to the basket hard.”
The Lakers made 7 of 21 3-pointers against the Bucks. They average 24.5 3-point attempts to rank among the league leaders.
"We’ve got to be ready to go because I know they attack the rim hard and they shoot 3," Adelman said. "They’re just playing with a lot of freedom right now."