The Lakers look for their fourth straight win overall and fourth in a row at the Target Center on Sunday night when they face a Timberwolves team trying to stop a five-game slide at home.
Los Angeles (45-10), winners of 14 of 16, open a two-game trip following Friday’s 115-111 overtime victory over New Orleans. Kobe Bryant scored 39 points - 11 in the extra five minutes - as the Lakers improved to 8-1 since Andrew Bynum tore the MCL in his right knee in a 115-98 win over Memphis on Jan. 31.
Bynum could miss up to 12 weeks. Since Bynum’s injury, Bryant - averaging 27.6 points this season - is scoring 32.4 points per game.
If the Timberwolves didn’t realize how valuable Al Jefferson was to their success, they do now. Minnesota (18-36) has lost five straight at home for its longest such skid since dropping nine in a row at the Target Center from Nov. 21-Dec. 27.
Minnesota is 1-3 since Jefferson tore the ACL in his right knee in a 101-97 loss at New Orleans on Feb. 8. He was leading the Timberwolves with averages of 23.1 points and 11.0 rebounds.
“We ain’t going to be able to find our way without Al,” guard Randy Foye said. “We played 50 games with him.”
Minnesota has no choice, though, as Jefferson is out for the season. He had surgery on Wednesday in New York to repair the ligament.
Bryant, meanwhile, is averaging 26.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists as Los Angeles has won three straight in Minnesota. He scored 30 points to lead seven Lakers in double figures in their only visit to the Target Center this season - a 132-119 win on Jan. 30.
Inserted into the lineup following Bynum’s injury, Lamar Odom is playing his best basketball of the season, averaging 16.3 points and 13.8 boards during the last nine games. He has grabbed 17 or more rebounds in five of his last six games.
Odom had his last triple-double in Minnesota, posting 10 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in the Lakers’ 117-92 win on Feb. 13, 2008.
“We’re used to it from (Derek),” Bryant said. “That’s what he does. That’s why he is so valuable to our ballclub.”
The Wolves could use some consistency from Foye, who scored a career-high 36 points in Minnesota’s fifth straight home loss, 112-105 to Indiana on Friday night. The point guard, however, committed five of the team’s 19 turnovers.
“Guy’s got to have a catcher’s mitt to pick up the ball,” said Wolves coach Kevin McHale, whose team has lost nine of 11.
Minnesota can’t afford too many mistakes against the Lakers, who scored a season-high 132 points in the teams’ last meeting—the last game they finished with a healthy Bynum.
Los Angeles is averaging 113.9 points while winning 10 of 11. The Wolves, meanwhile, are ranked in the bottom third in the league, allowing 102.8 points per game.