Meetings between the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves have resulted in nothing but wins for Kobe Bryant and company for quite some time.
With the way the Lakers' three-game road trip has started and the Timberwolves' recent success at home, however, Minnesota seems capable of earning its first victory in the series in five years.
Bryant and the Lakers try to bounce back from another loss to an inferior opponent Friday night when they face the Timberwolves, who are seeking its first six-game home winning streak in eight years.
The Lakers (23-16) are percentage points behind the Clippers in the Pacific Division, but would be in first place if they could find ways to win on the road. They're tied for the league's second-best home record at 17-2, yet have the ninth-worst road mark at 6-14.
Los Angeles hit the road after Sunday's 93-83 victory over Miami, but any momentum gained from that win quickly disappeared in an 88-85 overtime loss to Detroit on Tuesday. It looked like the Lakers would easily put that behind them the next day in Washington, taking a 21-point lead in the third quarter. Los Angeles stunningly fell apart, however, and the Wizards rallied to hand the Lakers a 106-101 defeat.
Bryant finished with 30 points but missed nine of 10 shots in the final quarter for Los Angeles.
"Our mindset right now to play on the road is not what it should be," said coach Mike Brown, whose team allows an average of 96.2 points on the road - 9.3 more than it gives up at home.
It typically hasn't mattered where Los Angeles faces Minnesota (21-19), however.
The Lakers have won 17 straight over the Timberwolves since a 117-107 double-overtime loss March 6, 2007. It's the NBA's longest active winning streak by one team over another.
Los Angeles beat the Timberwolves 104-85 on Feb. 29 in its first game after the All-Star break. Bryant was cleared to play shortly before the opening tip after sustaining a broken nose and a concussion in the All-Star game, and wearing a protective mask, piled up 31 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
Andrew Bynum added 13 points and 13 boards and Pau Gasol scored 15 against a Timberwolves team playing without Kevin Love (flu).
The Lakers also won in Minnesota on Jan. 29, but it wasn't easy. Bryant had 35 points and 14 rebounds along with two clutch jumpers in the final 1:16 of a 106-101 victory. Gasol added 28 points and Bynum chipped in 21.
Minnesota is 7-3 at the Target Center since that defeat and riding its first five-game home winning streak since 2006-07.
The Timberwolves, 22-60 at home over the previous two seasons, defeated Portland 106-94 on Tuesday and are trying to win six in a row in Minneapolis for the first time since March 21-April 12, 2004.
"I don't think anybody can really say that we're the laughingstock of the NBA anymore,'' swingman Wes Johnson said. "If you come in here thinking that, you're going to catch an 'L' real quick.''
Johnson had a season-best 19 points and shot 8 of 11 on Tuesday while Love finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds for Minnesota, which has won three in row to move into eighth place in the Western Conference. Love is averaging 36.7 points and 14.3 boards in the last three and had 33 and 13 against the Lakers in January.
"We're talking about the fact that we're relevant right now,'' coach Rick Adelman said. "We've made a run here that got us to that position. We can win games and we can stay right there.''
Adelman is hopeful starting center Nikola Pekovic, averaging 12.3 points and 7.1 rebounds, can return after missing two games with a sore right foot.