Szczerbiak looks to keep the Timberwolves’ longest winning streak of the season alive when they host the streaking Los Angeles Lakers.
Szczerbiak scored 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s 84-74 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Timberwolves have won four in a row, all on a Western road trip.
Szczerbiak, who is averaging 17 points per game this season, has averaged 24.3 in his last four including a season-high 34 points on Dec. 2 in a 113-108 win over the Lakers.
The Timberwolves have defeated the Lakers twice this season, including an 88-74 win Nov. 9. Minnesota has won three straight in the series dating to last season.
Szczerbiak helped the Timberwolves, who scored 33 points in the fourth quarter, erase a 14-point deficit Wednesday. Minnesota rallied from an 18-point second-quarter deficit in its win over the Lakers, scoring 39 points in the fourth quarter—their most in a final quarter since a club-record 46 against New Jersey on Dec. 26, 1997.
“We just have to play looser—we come out and we seem like we’re so scared. I don’t know how to explain it,” Szczerbiak said. “We’ve got to let it all hang out like we did in the fourth quarter at the start of the game.
“We can’t jab at our opponent, we’ve got to come out with haymakers and put them away right away.”
Garnett had 16 points and 14 rebounds in the win over the Blazers, and Marko Jaric added 19. Garnett, who scored a season-low 11 points in a win Sunday over the Sacramento Kings, has averaged 19.3 points in the last four games, two below his season average.
“It was an ugly win, but we’ll take it,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We know we didn’t play well. It would be great if everybody was Miss America, but tonight wasn’t one of those.”
The Timberwolves were without reserve guard Troy Hudson, who had a sore knee.
Bryant shot 9-for-21 and had eight assists—all in the first half—and nine rebounds for Los Angeles, which had won consecutive games just once before their current winning streak.
Bryant was averaging 31 points per game, ranking him second in the league behind Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson (33.6) heading into the game.
Center Kwame Brown remains out indefinitely with a sore right hamstring and Achilles tendon.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 9): Lakers - 4th place, 3 1/2 GB, Pacific Division. Timberwolves - 1st place, Northwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Lakers - Bryant, 30.6 ppg; Odom, 9.6 rpg and 5.7 apg. Timberwolves - Garnett, 21.5 ppg, 10.4 rpg and 4.9 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Timberwolves, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 2, Timberwolves, 113-108. At Los Angeles, Garnett scored 29 points for the Wolves, while Odom led the Lakers with 24. The victory was the first in Minnesota’s current winning streak.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lakers - 6-4 on the road; Timberwolves - 6-2 at home.