Bryant scored 25 points, including a pair of layups in heavy traffic during the final 35 seconds, leading the Lakers to a 92-89 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night. Odom had 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.
“It’s great to have a 1-2 punch,” said Bryant, who has been unable to return the Lakers to championship form since Shaquille O’Neal left. “When Lamar’s clicking like that, it makes my life a lot easier on nights like tonight. I needed guys to pick me up, and Lamar stepped up and did that and carried the load. Then at the end of the game I was able to come through.”
Kwame Brown had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who barely avoided their first four-game season sweep at the hands of the Timberwolves and dealt them their season-worst sixth straight defeat.
“Tonight we stayed tough and made the plays when we needed to,” said Odom, who had six rebounds and four assists in the fourth quarter.
Marcus Banks had 18 points for Minnesota, but shot an airball trying for a game-tying 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds on the clock. Kevin Garnett had 16 points and 14 rebounds for his league-leading 50th double-double and 21st in a row, extending the longest such streak in franchise history.
“I should have taken some more shots and I should have been a lot more aggressive than I was,” said Garnett, who was 4-for-14 from the field. “But I’m not going to take anything away from Kwame. He’s out there working hard, just like I’m out there working hard.”
The Timberwolves’ 38th loss tied last season’s total. It was their 20th defeat in their last 23 road games and their seventh straight away from Target Center, tying the franchise record set on Jan. 10. They are 1-9 in games decided by three or fewer points and trail the Lakers by seven games for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
The Lakers had a one-point lead and the ball when Smush Parker’s turnover resulted in a fast-break slam dunk by Minnesota rookie Rashad McCants, giving the Timberwolves an 82-81 edge with 2:42 remaining.
Banks followed with another dunk 11 seconds later off a turnover by Luke Walton, but the Lakers regained the lead at 85-84 with 1:36 left, as Odom hit a 13-footer and Parker converted his steal of Ricky Davis into a fast-break layup with 1:36 to play.
Garnett’s three-point play put Minnesota back in front 14 seconds later, but Walton responded with a 3-pointer from the left corner and Bryant gave the Lakers a 90-87 lead with a layup after Justin Reed missed a 13-footer at the other end.
“Probably two or three months ago, I would not have had the confidence to take that shot,” Walton said. “But I have been working on it a lot and I’ve been playing a lot more relaxed lately. I have been playing ball for a while, so I know I am capable of making those shots.”
McCants made a layup to make it a one-point game, but Bryant’s layup with 6.3 seconds left forced the Timberwolves to call a timeout. The ball was inbounded to Garnett, who spotted Banks wide open for his missed 3-point attempt.
“It feels good to finally get one of these close games,” Bryant said.
Odom scored nine points during a 2:17 span, including a 14-footer that capped an 11-2 run and tied the score at 30-all with 8:03 left in the second quarter. But the Timberwolves held Bryant to six points in the half on 3-for-9 shooting and led 46-40 at intermission.
Playing without center Chris Mihm (severely sprained right ankle) and Devean George (sprained right wrist), the Lakers used their 13th different starting lineup, as forward Ronny Turiaf made his first NBA start. It was only the 11th appearance for the 23-year-old rookie from Gonzaga, who underwent open heart surgery last July 26 to correct an enlarged aortic root and preserve his aortic valve.
The Lakers committed nine of their 17 turnovers in the first quarter. Turiaf was called for traveling twice in a 34-second span before the game was 3 minutes old, then committed his third turnover less than 2 minutes later with a cross-court pass for Bryant that went out of bounds.
Davis had an embarrassing moment of his own in the opening quarter, accidentally tipping in a missed 3-point shot by Parker while trying to swat the rebound away from Odom. Parker scored 12 points, including a spectacular layup on which he went somersaulting over Reed’s right shoulder and crash-landed with 4 1/2 minutes left in the half.
Four more Lakers losses would mathematically assure Phil Jackson of finishing with his worst record in 15 seasons as an NBA coach. His 1994-95 Chicago Bulls were 47-35 in the second season of Michael Jordan’s first retirement. … The Lakers are 13-11 against Minnesota with Jackson coaching the team. He was 17-1 against Minnesota while coaching the Bulls.