Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson gave his team Wednesday off to recover from a busy stretch of games. The Lakers appear to be getting another break in their schedule Friday night, hosting a Minnesota Timberwolves team sinking toward the Western Conference basement.
While the Lakers look for their sixth straight win at Staples Center, the Timberwolves are going for just their third victory since late January.
Los Angeles (49-12) avoided losing three consecutive games for the first time all season with a 99-89 home win over Memphis on Tuesday night, finishing a stretch of nine games in 15 days since the All-Star break.
“The focus was just about coming out and playing the right way and winning the game,” Kobe Bryant said after scoring 31 points. “You don’t want to compound mistakes or add to losses - two was enough.”
Prior to Tuesday’s game, the reigning MVP averaged 39.0 points in back-to-back losses at Denver and Phoenix.
Bryant is scoring 30.4 points per game as the Lakers have won seven straight against Minnesota, including three this season.
Lamar Odom keyed Los Angeles’ most recent win in the series with 25 points and 14 rebounds in a 111-108 victory at Minnesota on Feb. 22.
That game exemplified how Odom has played a key role since the team lost center Andrew Bynum to a torn MCL on Jan. 31. Odom has started the last 15 games in place of Bynum but has struggled with his shot lately.
The veteran forward has averaged 6.0 points on 26.7 percent shooting in his last three games. Odom hit 1-of-8 from the field and matched a season low with two points Tuesday, but he also had 13 rebounds, eight assists and a season-high six blocks.
“That’s what he does well for us and that’s what we need from him,” Bryant said. “He does a lot of the intangibles, and some of the stuff he does doesn’t even show up in the box score. He’s been playing extremely well.”
While the Lakers have been able to overcome the injury to Bynum, Minnesota (18-42) has not recovered from the loss of their emerging young center.
The Timberwolves are 1-9 without leading scorer Al Jefferson and have dropped their last seven, including the past five by an average of 16.0 points since their narrow loss to the Lakers. They are 11th in the West but have fallen within six games of conference-worst Sacramento.
Tuesday’s 118-94 home loss to Golden State was one of their worst. The Timberwolves trailed by as many as 31 points in the first half against a Warriors team that had dropped 11 of 12 on the road.
“That’s as bad as you can play and there’s no excuses for that,” said Minnesota coach Kevin McHale, whose team is 2-15 since a 90-83 win at Milwaukee on Jan. 26. “That’s my fault. The guys weren’t ready to play and that falls on me.”
Former UCLA star Kevin Love returns to Los Angeles after posting his 17th double-double of the season with 18 points and 14 boards. The fifth overall pick in last year’s draft is averaging 12.6 points and 9.7 rebounds since being inserted into the starting lineup Feb. 4.
Timberwolves starting point guard Sebastian Telfair is expected to return after missing the last two games with a sore groin muscle.
Minnesota has lost 27 of its last 31 road games versus the Lakers, including five in a row since Dec. 2, 2005.