MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Kobe Bryant spent the day in his hotel room, unable to keep any food or fluids down for most of the afternoon.
The same bout of the stomach flu sent teammate Andrew Bynum to the hospital, but Bryant refused similar treatment leading up to a game he knew his team had to win.
He simply shook off the nausea and queasy stomach, scoring 13 of his 20 points in the first quarter to set the tone in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 116-95 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.
“Pretty Kobe-ish,” Lakers trainer Gary Vitti said.
Vitti may have invented a new word there, but it was pretty “Kobe-ish” indeed.
“It’s tough, but as the leader of this ball club you have to come out and play through that,” Bryant said. “Set the tone early, and I was able to do that.”
Trevor Ariza added 15 points and five rebounds, and Bryant also had five assists for the Lakers, who dropped Minnesota to an NBA worst 2-14.
“How are you going to tell if he’s got the flu?” acting Wolves head coach Jerry Sichting said. “He’s a lot like Jordan. It doesn’t matter with guys like that. He made ME sick.”
Al Jefferson had 12 points and 12 rebounds, but shot just 5-for-14 from the field. The Timberwolves have lost their last three games by a combined 65 points.
The Wolves lost by 29 points at Memphis on Saturday and by 15 to San Antonio on Friday, a disturbing trend for a young team that, up until then, had at least shown plenty of effort night-in and night-out.
“We didn’t come out and play as hard, I think,” Wolves point guard Sebastian Telfair said. “That’s one of the best things about this team and we’re at our best when we come out and play hard and we give all our effort and we didn’t do that.”
A sparse crowd braved a winter snow storm to make it to the game, and the weather even messed with the Lakers’ short travel plans.
The Lakers stayed in a hotel across the street from the Target Center, but the bus that was supposed to pick them up and bring them to the arena was late because the poor road conditions created a traffic snarl in the city.
About half the Lakers chose to walk over on their own, while Jackson, Bryant and others waited for the late bus.
A reporter jokingly suggested to Sichting before the game that the Wolves were playing games with their opponents from sunny California, but even a little help from the skies couldn’t get them their third win of the season.
Bryant came out gunning from the start, scoring 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the first quarter. He appeared to be a little less explosive than his usual self, until he threw down a 360-degree dunk off a fast break late in the second quarter.
The Lakers were up by 16 by that point, and despite not having Ronny Turiaf (concussion), Kwame Brown (ankle) and Bynum, Bryant didn’t even need to play the fourth quarter as they snapped a two-game losing streak.
“I made a point to come out and be really aggressive. Kind of set the tone a little bit,” Bryant said. “I kind of let my teammates know that this is a game we have to get. No matter if we’re short-handed or not, we have to come out here and take care of business.”
In Minnesota, rebuilding has been painful—literally.
The Timberwolves have been banged up all season, which certainly hasn’t helped matters in what already was expected to be a difficult year after Kevin Garnett was dealt to Boston. Randy Foye (knee) and Theo Ratliff (knee) have been out for weeks, while Rashad McCants (knee) and Mark Madsen (shoulder) have recently returned from injuries.
Marko Jaric missed the game with a foot injury, leaving the Wolves with Telfair as the only healthy point guard.
Even their coach hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Randy Wittman missed the game and will be out indefinitely when he undergoes back surgery on Wednesday. Sichting will fill in until Wittman returns, though the team has not said when that will be.
“It seems like when it rains it pours,” forward Antoine Walker said. “Anything that could possibly go wrong has.”
Bynum did not dress and spent part of the afternoon at a Minneapolis hospital to receive IV fluids. … Walker played after being listed as a game time decision with an ankle injury.