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Lakers edge Timberwolves, stay hot in series

Kobe Bryant supplied 31 points and his block from behind with the clock expiring allowed the Lakers to hold on for a 120-117 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday at Target Center.

Bryant could've clinched the victory at the free throw line, but misfired on his second attempt with 3.4 seconds left. Ricky Rubio grabbed the rebound and raced down the court to attempt a potential game-tying 3-pointer, but it fell short after Bryant got just enough of the ball on his block from behind.

Dwight Howard amassed 25 points and 16 rebounds, Pau Gasol totaled 17 points with nine boards and Steve Nash had 16 points with eight assists in the Lakers' 22nd straight victory over Minnesota, which also halted a three-game skid for Los Angeles.

"We were better," said Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni of his team's performance. "Spacing was pretty good, Dwight was active on the glass and we were able to get second-chance points in the second half."

Rubio had 13 points and seven assists in the setback for the Timberwolves, who had won two of three coming in. Nikola Pekovic finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds, while Dante Cunningham scored 18 in defeat.

Minnesota was behind, 111-99, with just over three minutes to play, but started intentionally fouling Howard to get back into it.

The Lakers big man attempted eight free throws over the next 57 seconds, making just two of them, and the T'Wolves came within 114-111 on the ensuing 6-1 push.

Bryant answered at the other end with a jumper to keep a four-point spread and Minnesota was only able to get its deficit down to two from there.

"It was good to see us fight until the end," Timberwolves forward Chase Budinger remarked. "We never gave up. We showed some urgency those last three minutes."

The Lakers held a 50-46 edge at the break before creating some headway in the third.

They ripped off an 11-1 run to start the frame, with Nash's 3-pointer and following alley-oop feed to Howard highlighting the spurt which gave Los Angeles a 14-point lead.

The visitors held a double-digit edge over the next four-plus minutes until Rubio's layup and free throw from Andrei Kirilenko reduced the margin to eight, but Bryant, Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake nailed 3-pointers in succession of one another, building the edge to 80-65.

Minnesota trailed, 91-79, to start the fourth and fell behind by as many as 14 following consecutive scores from Howard before its late run fell short.

Game Notes

The Lakers longest winning streak over one team is 24 in a row over the Kansas City/Sacramento Kings, occurring between 1983-88 ... Los Angeles was without Metta World Peace, who will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee. He is expected to miss at least six weeks ... The T'Wolves haven't beaten the Lakers since March 6, 2007, a double- overtime victory in Minnesota ... Jamison scored 18 off the bench for Los Angeles.

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