Wolves finish grueling stretch in Phoenix

The Minnesota Timberwolves will finish up a grueling three games in three nights stretch in the desert on Thursday when they take on Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns.

The Wolves returned from the All-Star break with a pair of games in Los Angeles, first beating the Clippers on Tuesday before faltering badly against the Lakers without All-Star Kevin Love on Wednesday, 104-85.

Kobe Bryant, playing with the protective facemask after suffering a broken nose and concussion in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game, scored a game-high 31 points, dished out eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds in almost 33 minutes of action to fuel the Lakers.

Martell Webster and Michael Beasley each had 14 points for the Timberwolves. Anthony Randolph netted 12 and Nikola Pekovic and Derrick Williams had 10 apiece in a losing effort.

After trailing by as many as 13 in the second quarter, Minnesota made a run at the end of the half, scoring 11 of the final 15 points before intermission to cut their deficit to 50-44. But Los Angeles scored the first nine points of the second half to begin a 33- point third quarter.

"I thought they attacked us early in the game. They were ready to play, said Minnesota head coach Rick Adelman. "They really came out and were aggressive. We cut it down to six at halftime, and the floodgates opened in the third quarter."

Love, who was out with flu-like symptoms against the Lakers, is expected to return tonight.

The Suns, meanwhile, are well-rested and haven't played since losing to Golden State, 106-104, last Wednesday.

Monta Ellis scored 26 points in that one and made the game-winning jumper with just one second left with Grant Hill draped all over him, snapping the Warriors' 13-game losing streak in Phoenix. Golden State last won in the desert on March 18, 2005.

Marcin Gortat ended with 21 points and 15 rebounds for the Suns, who headed into the break with five defeats in their last seven games. Channing Frye donated 22 points and nine boards.

"The game was lost in the first ten minutes of the game," Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said. "We got an opportunity to do something good and we come out like that is just ridiculous. It's unfair to the fans in the stands. The way we approached the game sucked."

Phoenix, which will play nine of its next 11 games at home, has won eight straight over the Wolves and 10 of 11 overall.