It has been almost seven years since Minnesota got the best of the Los Angeles Lakers. But with Kevin Love playing at the highest of levels and Kobe Bryant still sidelined, the Timberwolves appear to have a decent shot to finally end those woes Sunday night.
Coming off another monster performance, Love and the Timberwolves open a two-game road swing trying to avoid a 23rd consecutive loss to the Lakers.
Love has done it all in the early going, averaging 27.2 points, 14.7 rebounds and a surprising 5.0 assists.
"That's why he gets paid the big bucks," coach Rick Adelman said of Love, who has recorded double-doubles in all six games.
Love had 32 points, 15 boards and finished two assists shy of a triple-double Friday, leading Minnesota (4-2) to a 116-108 win over Dallas. Love has dished out at least five assists in four straight games, the longest such stretch of his career.
"I know my teammates look for me so I just want to return the favor," said Love, who has never averaged better than 2.5 assists in a season. "They've been cutting hard, I've been looking for them, finding them, and they've been really contributing on both ends of the floor. I have to pay them back somehow."
While there was plenty to talk about following Friday's victory, it didn't take long for Love to shift his focus to Sunday's clash.
"We'll get back on the practice floor (Saturday), watch some more tape, and then head to LA and hopefully get a couple good road wins," said Love, whose teams plays the Clippers on Monday.
The Timberwolves have given up 107.8 points per game in dropping 22 straight to the Lakers (3-4) since a 117-107 double-overtime victory March 6, 2007. Bryant, though, has averaged 27.9 points while playing in all but one of those matchups.
Looking lost at times without Bryant, the Lakers are hoping to avoid a fifth loss in seven games after falling 96-85 at New Orleans on Friday.
Chris Kaman had a season-high 16 points and was one of five players to score in double figures, but Los Angeles was limited to 38.8 percent shooting and outscored 22-5 in transition. The Pelicans scored 14 points off the Lakers' 14 turnovers.
"We just turned the ball over, it's as simple as that," said Steve Blake, who had 13 points, eight assists and five turnovers. "We just didn't execute down the stretch and they got out in transition and were getting easy baskets. We can't allow that to happen."
In addition to taking better care of the basketball, Los Angeles needs Pau Gasol to get going. The former All-Star, who has just 11 points on a combined 4-of-22 shooting in the last two games, is posting career lows in points (12.0) and field-goal percentage (35.2).
"I've got to be sharper. I've just got to play a little smarter," said Gasol, who has still been productive on the glass with a team-leading 10.7 boards per contest.
"I might not have all the speed and explosiveness that I used to have years ago, but I still have to use my experience and my fundamentals to be able to be effective every single night regardless of who we're playing."
Gasol is averaging 19.6 points on 57.9 percent shooting in 31 meetings with the Timberwolves since 2003-04.
Los Angeles will need to keep a close eye on Kevin Martin, who has made 15 of 23 from 3-point range while averaging 27.0 points in the last four games.
Steve Nash should be available after resting against the Pelicans with the team playing the second of a back-to-back. The 39-year-old point guard, though, is averaging a very pedestrian 7.6 points on 27.9 percent shooting - well off his 49.0 percent career mark - and 5.2 assists in five games.
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