MINNEAPOLIS -- In their first game without injured forward Metta World Peace, the Los Angeles Lakers did what they always do.
They beat the Timberwolves, this time 120-117 Wednesday at Target Center. The names may change, but the results never do.
Dwight Howard, intimidating the Wolves all game, had a monster night with 25 points, 16 rebounds, five steals and five blocks.
Kobe Bryant had 31 points and seven assists, Antawn Jamison scored 18 off the bench and Paul Gasol scored 16.
The Lakers (37-35) had lost their previous three games and are battling for a Western Conference playoff spot, so it was a much-needed win. But it was hardly unexpected.
It was their 22nd straight victory over the Timberwolves, a streak that began after the Timberwolves' overtime victory here in March 2007. It is the NBA's longest active winning streak by one team against another.
The Timberwolves (25-45), who were looking for their first winning streak since Dec. 15 after Tuesday's rout of the Pistons in Detroit, instead lost for the 14th time in 19 games. Minnesota had eight players score in double figures, led by Nikola Pekovic (19) and Dante Cunningham (18).
It was closer than it should have been. In the fourth quarter, the Wolves mounted a comeback that came up just short when Ricky Rubio's last-second long three-pointer missed. Rubio contended that he was fouled by Bryant, but no foul was called.
The Lakers learned before the game that World Peace would be out for about six weeks after determining surgery was needed to repair torn cartilage in his left knee. With Jodie Meeks inserted into the starting lineup, and with Steve Blake and Jamison getting expanded roles, the Lakers went out and took care of business.
After taking a four-point halftime lead, Bryant had 16 points and Steve Nash seven in a 41-point third quarter; it began with an 11-1 run that gave them a 12-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Lakers shot 18-for-25 in the quarter while scoring more third-quarter points than any Wolves opponent this season.
Down 106-92, the Wolves got eight points from Cunningham and five from Rubio while in a run that pulled them to within 114-111 with 1:09 left.
From there, it was back and forth until Bryant missed a free throw with the Lakers up three. Rubio got the rebound and drove the floor but missed his last shot.
NOTES: The Lakers would have to advance deep into the playoffs for World Peace to return. He sustained the injury Monday against Golden State. "The thing we'll miss is his defense," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We can put him on guys, either in the post or on the perimeter and not worry about it." ... No date has been set for a CT scan to be taken on Kevin Love's healing right hand. It still could happen by the weekend. The scan would be sent to his New York surgeon, at which time he could be cleared for full contact. Coach Rick Adelman said Love would need some work before returning to action, which could be difficult given the Wolves' limited opportunity for practice. Still, Love could do contact work on one-on-one or two-on-two situations next week, if he's cleared. One thing is sure: Adelman would like to see Love play "You'd like to see our guys get on the court together. We haven't seen that very much."