Lakers-Timberwolves Preview

The Associated Press

It's been nearly five years since the Minnesota Timberwolves have had a chance at a .500 record this late into a season. However, it's also been almost as long since they've beaten their next opponent.

The Timberwolves will attempt to snap a 15-game skid to the Los Angeles Lakers by taking advantage of their struggles on the road Sunday night.

For the third time this season, Minnesota (9-10) is close to evening its record. In the most recent attempt, the Timberwolves were 7-8 before a 108-98 loss at Utah on Jan. 21 but have gotten another chance after two wins over teams from the Lone Star State.

After a 105-90 victory in Dallas on Wednesday, they topped San Antonio 87-79 on Friday when Ricky Rubio scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. Kevin Love also had 18 points in his first home game after signing a four-year extension worth more than $60 million, and was one of three Minnesota players to record double-doubles along with Rubio and center Nikola Pekovic.

"It's a terrific win for our guys," coach Rick Adelman said. "Hopefully it's really a step forward for us."

Minnesota will try to use take another step by improving to .500 after 20 games for the first time since it was 22-22 on Jan. 30, 2007, and by beating the Lakers for the first time since March 6, 2007.

The 15 consecutive losses to Los Angeles (11-9) since that 117-107 double overtime victory at home is the league's second-longest active losing streak to one opponent. Minnesota has dropped 16 in a row to Northwest Division rival Portland.

The Timberwolves, though, might have one of their best chances to snap that skid as the Lakers are 1-7 away from home. They opened a road-heavy stretch Saturday with a 100-89 loss in Milwaukee.

A Kobe Bryant jumper put Los Angeles within four points of the Bucks with 4:52 remaining, but Milwaukee responded with a 15-4 run.

The Lakers, who are playing seven of their next eight on the road, are off to their worst start on the road since dropping eight of their first nine in 2002-03. They're also seeking to avoid their first five-game road losing streak since March 4-15, 2007.

"There's concern and determination that we want to fix things. If we solve that issue, then we'll be all right," Bryant said after his team lost for the fourth time in five games overall.

Los Angeles can help itself by scoring 100 or more points for the first time in 14 games. The Lakers, winners of seven in a row at the Target Center, haven't surpassed 96 in any of their eight road contests.

They're averaging 89.6 points away from home but have topped the century mark in seven of their last nine in Minnesota.

This time, though, Los Angeles will face a Timberwolves team that's made impressive strides defensively in its first season under Adelman. Minnesota is allowing 93.5 points per game after giving a league-worst 107.7 per contest in 2010-11.

The Timberwolves, though, could use more help from Love against the Lakers. The California native has averaged 12.2 points in 11 all-time matchups, his lowest against a Western Conference opponent. He's averaged 10.0 points on 33.3 percent shooting in five home games and had one of two scoreless starts in his career during a 112-95 loss Nov. 19, 2010.

Bryant, who broke Jerry West's franchise record for free throws made Saturday, is four field goals shy of surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's team mark of 9,935.

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