Kobe Bryant scores 38 as Lakers pull out of skid just in time, beating Minnesota to end losing streak at 10
Mike Bresnahan and Lindsey Thiry recap the Lakers 119-115 victory over the Timberwolves, the end of a 10-game losing streak and a 38-point performance by Kobe Bryant.
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.
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.
A determined Kobe Bryant pounds his chest after hitting a three-pointer against the Timberwolves late in the second quarter of a game at Staples Center on Feb. 2.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
akers fans including Flea, celebrate after Kobe Bryant hit a three-pointer late in the fourth quarter of a game against the Timberwolves. The Lakers won, 119-115.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns passes the ball behind his head as Lakers forward Julius Randle defends during the second half of the Lakers’ 119-115 victory on Feb. 2.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Julius Randle pulls down a rebound over Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine during the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 119-115 win over Minnesota on Feb. 2.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant cheers on teammate Lou Williams during a break in the second quarter as the Lakers pulled ahead of the Timberwolves at Staples Center on Feb. 2.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward Julius Randle battles Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns for a rebound during the second half of a game on Feb. 2 at Staples Center.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers center Roy Hibbert defends Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins during the first quarter of a game at Staples Center on Feb. 2.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant yells out instructions to guard D’Angelo Russell as he is defended by Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins during a game at Staples Center on Feb. 2.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
D’Angelo Russell struggles to control the ball as Timberwolves defenders Gorgiu Dieng, left, and Andrew Wiggins pressure him during second half of a game on Feb. 2 at Staples Center.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant and Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins share a laugh during a break in a Feb. 2 game at Staples Center.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers center Roy Hibbert controls the ball as Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio tries to steal it during first quarter of a game at Staples Center on Feb. 2.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward Julius Randle tries to shoot over Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica during the first half of a game at Staples Center on Feb. 2.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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.
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.
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