The Los Angeles Lakers ended a three-game losing streak on Wednesday and will continue their road trip Thursday when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Lakers knocked off the Minnesota Timberwolves, 120-117 on Wednesday night. The victory kept the Lakers one game ahead of the Utah Jazz, and 1 1/2 games in front of the Dallas Mavericks for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference.
The Bucks are the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and are in no real jeopardy of missing the postseason. They fell to the Philadelphia 76ers in Philly on Wednesday, but are 7 1/2 up on those same 76ers for the last spot in the East.
The Lakers played their first game without Metta World Peace on Wednesday. The forward will be sidelined six weeks after surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus.
Kobe Bryant slid to the small forward spot and Jodie Meeks got the start at shooting guard.
Los Angeles built a 12-point lead after three quarters, thanks to 41 points in the third. The Wolves started fouling Dwight Howard intentionally to get back in the game and the strategy paid off. Howard went 2-for-8 from the foul line late in the game and the T'Wolves cut the lead to three.
Bryant could've iced the game, but missed a free throw. He atoned for the miscue when he blocked Ricky Rubio's 3-point shot to tie it, a block Minnesota thought was a foul.
"That's not a foul. They are not calling that," Bryant said. "That is a tough call to make. I just put my hand there, it is not like I went out and smacked him across the arm or anything like that. It is what it is."
Bryant had 31 points, while Howard posted 25 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks. Pau Gasol, playing in only his third game since a foot injury, scored 17, Antawn Jamison added 18 off the bench and Steve Nash netted 16.
The Bucks actually took a two-point lead into the fourth quarter against the Sixers, but went ice cold in the final frame. Milwaukee shot 31 percent over the final 12 minutes to manage just 14 points and lose, 100-92.
Wednesday's setback was Milwaukee's fourth in a row.
"You can point to a lot of things," Milwaukee forward Mike Dunleavy said. "We've got to bounce back and get a win."
The Bucks may have dropped four in a row, but received some great individual performances on Wednesday night.
Monta Ellis led all scorers with 29 points. Ersan Ilyasova had 13 points and 18 rebounds and Larry Sanders added 15 points and nine rebounds. Sanders' streak of eight straight games with 10-plus rebounds ended.
The Lakers have taken seven of the last nine against the Bucks and eight of their last 11 in Milwaukee.