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Kobe Bryant scores 38 as Lakers pull out of skid just in time, beating Minnesota to end losing streak at 10

Sorry, history. Infamy will have to wait for another day.

The Lakers avoided sole possession of the longest losing streak in their 68-year existence, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves, 119-115, to end a 10-game slump.

They were startlingly efficient Tuesday night, led by their least accurate starter this season.

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It was throwback night for Kobe Bryant, who flicked away his 34.9% shooting percentage by scoring 38 points and making seven of 11 three-point attempts.

It was bad enough that it got this far, the Lakers (10-41) tying their worst skid ever by losing to Charlotte two days earlier.

Tuesday's game was anything but boring, a change from the norm in recent weeks.

The Lakers led by 16 right before halftime and couldn't hold it at Staples Center, Minnesota taking a 102-101 lead on Zach LaVine's fastbreak layup with 5:15 left.

Bryant answered with back-to-back three-pointers and the crisis was averted for a few more minutes. His 20-foot floater meant a 113-110 lead with 26.4 seconds left, and he made six consecutive free throws from there as Minnesota started fouling to shorten possessions.

"You've seen me for 20 damn years. What do you expect?" said Bryant, who was 10 for 21 overall and added five assists. "It feels good to make those shots."

It might not have felt all that good to Timberwolves Coach Sam Mitchell, who as it happens was Toronto's coach when Bryant torched the Raptors for 81 points in 2006.

"I hate him," Mitchell said, facetiously. "If I don't ever see him again, it will be too soon. I hate him."

Told of Mitchell's remarks, Bryant said: "Thank you for the hate. Truly, I love that."

Lakers Coach Byron Scott added that Bryant looked "really lively."

Despite the victory, the oft-serious Scott said he wouldn't smile in front of reporters in the interview room.

"When I get back in the locker room," he said, before quickly pointing out, "that's the type of fight I've been looking for."

Maybe D'Angelo Russell wanted to show last summer's top overall draft pick that No. 2 wasn't so bad either.

Russell had 18 points and three assists; Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns had 14 points and nine rebounds.

Maybe Julius Randle wanted to remind everyone he was the big man on campus a full year before Towns arrived at Kentucky. Randle had 15 points and 12 rebounds while orbiting around the basket the entire night, scoring on three dunks, two layups and a tip-in.

"I think they were just tired of it," Scott said, alluding to all the losing.

Towns, by the way, is still special. He leads all rookies in double-doubles with 25.

The Lakers brought out their highest-scoring first half this season, building a 66-52 lead as Bryant was nicely effective, scoring 15 points on four-for-seven shooting.

Oddly, nobody on the Lakers knew Bryant's whereabouts before the game.

Scott thought he was going to play but wasn't certain. Lakers officials weren't sure either. He couldn't be tracked down. It was less than an hour until tipoff.

It's not unusual for Bryant to skip shoot-around on the day of a game. It happens this season a lot more often than not.

But for him to not communicate more directly whether he would play — this was something new.

Asked about the uncertainty, Bryant said, "I don't really pay much attention to that stuff. I don't know what to tell you."

Bryant obviously showed up in time for tip-off.

Scott might even look the other way if he keeps everyone guessing again.

"Of course. If it helps. Whatever it takes," Scott said, and he was finally smiling.

The Timberwolves (14-36) already held two close victories over the Lakers — 112-111 and 123-122 in overtime. There would not be a third despite 30 points from Andrew Wiggins.

The Lakers finally won. The historic streak was over.

Follow Mike Bresnahan on Facebook and Twitter @Mike_Bresnahan

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 03, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "LAKERS' SLIDE show is over - Bryant turns back the clock with 38 points and team stops skid at 10, avoiding infamy. - LAKERS 119 MINNESOTA 115" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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