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Kobe scores 38, Lakers beat Wolves 119-115 to end 10-gm skid

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Kobe Bryant hit seven 3-pointers while scoring a season-high 38 points, and the Los Angeles Lakers snapped their 10-game losing streak with a 119-115 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

Lou Williams scored 20 points for the Lakers, who avoided the longest losing streak in the 16-time champion franchise’s history despite blowing a 16-point lead in the second half. Los Angeles had lost 10 straight for the first time since 1994.

Bryant took charge with a vintage performance in his farewell season, repeatedly scoring from the perimeter in the Lakers’ first win since Jan. 12.

After Minnesota took the lead in the waning minutes, Bryant put the Lakers back ahead with dramatic back-to-back 3-pointers.

He also drained a 19-footer with 26 seconds last to put them up 113-110.

Bryant hit six free throws in the last 16.7 seconds. He scored 14 of the Lakers’ 18 points in the final 5:02, evoking memories of the best years for the third-leading scorer in NBA history.

Andrew Wiggins scored 30 points and led an impressive second-half surge by the Timberwolves, who have lost five straight and 16 of 18. Gorgui Dieng scored 19 points, and Karl-Anthony Towns had 14 points and nine rebounds.

Wiggins made a turnover with 17 seconds left after Bryant’s big jumper, and Bryant salted away the game at the line amid countless chants of his name from nostalgic fans.

Rookie D'Angelo Russell had 18 points for the Lakers.

The Timberwolves played without injured Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Garnett, whose sore right knee robbed him of his last chance to suit up against Bryant during their two parallel decades in the NBA. The Lakers met Garnett’s Celtics in the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals.

Several Lakers have said they didn’t pay attention to the history behind their streak, but they came out against Minnesota seemingly determined to end it.

Los Angeles roared to a 16-point lead while scoring a season-high 39 points in the second quarter. The surge was led by Bryant and Russell, who was chosen right behind Towns last summer with the No. 2 pick in the draft.

The Lakers still led by 16 late in the third, but Minnesota went ahead on Zach LaVine‘s layup with 5:16 to play.

STREAKING

The game was another crossroads for the Lakers during what’s already the worst three-season stretch in the proud franchise’s history. The only other 10-game losing streak in Lakers history happened in the waning days of the 1993-94 season under interim coach Magic Johnson.

The current Lakers have at least seven losing streaks of four games already this season. Their only winning streak of the season was a three-game run around the new year.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Before the game, Garnett voiced support for coach Sam Mitchell, saying he sees progress from the struggling club’s youngsters. … Martin missed his fifth straight game with a right wrist injury.

Lakers: Rookie Larry Nance Jr. has been shut down until after the All-Star break to give his sore right knee more time to rest. The Lakers have four more games before their eight-day break. … Los Angeles Rams greats Eric Dickerson and Vince Ferragamo watched the game from a luxury suite.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: At Clippers on Wednesday.

Lakers: At Pelicans on Thursday.

President Donald Trump awarding Medal of Freedom to NBA star Bob Cousy

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WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump is set to present basketball legend Bob Cousy (KOO’-zee) with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The award is being handed out Thursday. It celebrates individuals with a wide range of achievements and is the nation’s highest civilian honor.

The 91-year-old Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame member played for the Boston Celtics from 1950 to 1963. He won six league championships and the 1957 MVP title.

Cousy is also known for speaking out against racism. He was an ardent supporter of black teammates who faced discrimination during the civil rights movement.

Cousy will be the second person to receive the award this year from Trump. Golfer Tiger Woods received the honor in May.

Report: Shelly Sterling, members of Clippers organization heard Donald Sterling audio in advance and didn’t act

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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In 2014, published audio of a racist rant by then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling rocked the country.

It shouldn’t have. Sterling’s racism and sexism were well-established by then. But few cared. The audio poured gasoline on the fire and moved people to act. I wish it didn’t require that. But it did.

What if the audio didn’t become public through TMZ? Apparently, there might have been opportunity for another outcome.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The fact is Shelly and several people in the Clippers organization heard the recording and decided not to act on it or weren’t appalled enough to act on it. Maybe they didn’t understand how big a splash this tape could make.

It’s unclear when Shelly Sterling (Donald’s wife) and other members of the Clippers organization heard the audio. Maybe it was while TMZ was doing due diligence. If so, it was probably too late to change the course of history.

But perhaps it was when V. Stiviano – Donald’s girlfriend who made the original recording and was being sued by Shelly – was still the only one in possession of it. Stiviano was clearly upset with how things were going financially between her and the Sterlings. For the right price, maybe the audio would have gone away before becoming public.

I’m glad it didn’t happen that way. The world is better off knowing exactly who Donald Sterling is.

Yet, this leads to an incredible “what if?” What if the people who heard the audio in advance understood the magnitude, acted in Sterling’s best interest and paid to have the audio kept secret? Would Sterling still own the Clippers today?

Kyle Kuzma scores on own basket in Team USA-Australia game (video)

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The Lakers are desperate at center. They might even need Kyle Kuzma to play the position. He’ll have to work on, among other things, rebounding.

At least it usually won’t go as poorly as this play in Team USA’s exhibition win over Australia.

Rockets betting on talent of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, everything else be damned

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

There is a tried-and-true method for winning an NBA championship: Get two recent MVPs. It has worked every time.

The Celtics paired Bill Russell and Bob Cousy. Won a title.

The 76ers paired Moses Malone and Julius Erving. Won a title.

The Warriors paired Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Won a title.

By acquiring 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook to join 2018 MVP James Harden, the Rockets are testing the limits of this plan.

Houston upgraded from Chris Paul to Westbrook in its trade with the Thunder. There’s certainly logic to that. Harden is in his prime, so this is the time to push in. It’s almost impossible to win a championship without stars. Stars are also hard to come by. Sometimes, you must just get whichever stars you can and hope for the best.

But Westbrook came at a significant cost.

Houston had to send Oklahoma City top-four-protected first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, a top-four-protected pick swap in 2021 and a top-10-protected pick swap in 2025. By the time most of those picks convey, the Rockets could be far worse.

The trade is salary neutral for the next three seasons, which partially explains why Houston gave up so much. Most teams would require a sweetener for taking Paul’s contract. But Westbrook’s contract runs a season longer, and the Rockets will owe him $47,063,478 at age 34.

There will be diminishing returns with Harden and Westbrook, two ball-dominant guards. They have the talent to figure it out offensively, though it will require major adjustments to how they’ve played lately. The defensive concerns are far bigger. Both players have frequent lapses on that end.

Westbrook, 30, has also declined the last few years. He remains quite good. But the way he relies on his athleticism, he could fall rapidly.

Based on name recognition on both sides, this is the most monumental trade in NBA history. In Houston, it will likely define the rest of Harden’s prime then – with those picks outgoing – the Rockets’ next phase.

Beyond that, Houston did well to build depth on a budget. The Rockets re-signed Danuel House (three years, $11,151,000 million), Austin Rivers (1+1, minimum) and Gerald Green (one year, minimum) and signed Tyson Chandler (one year, minimum). Most of the mid-level exception remains unused with the free-agent market largely dried up. But hey, luxury tax. Houston could still re-sign Iman Shumpert through Bird Rights.

The Rockets look pretty similar to last year – except Westbrook replacing Paul. That’s the enormous move.

I’m not even sure it will help next year, though. Houston could’ve kept Paul and fit squarely into a wide-open championship race. At least on paper.

The big unknown: How toxic was the relationship between Harden and Paul? Several Rockets denied a problem, but there was plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Westbrook is better than Paul. The two stars will likely get along better.

But will Westbrook add enough value to justify the high cost? All those draft considerations could have gone toward addressing other needs. Really, just needs. Houston didn’t need another ball-dominant guard one bit.

I support the Rockets prioritizing the present. Westbrook could propel them to a championship.

But given the fit concerns, the cost was too steep for my liking.

Offseason grade: C-