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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.

Watch Jerry West’s emotional memories of trading for/his relationship with Kobe Bryant

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Jerry West has never understood why people thought he was brilliant for recognizing the talent of a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant coming out of high school. To him it was obvious.

If it had been obvious (and if that era had not frowned on the development that came with drafting high school players), Kobe wouldn’t have been a Laker, and NBA history might be very different.

For West, Kobe was not just another player, he was like a son. West talked about it on the well done TNT special commemorating Kobe Tuesday night.

What those neatly packaged TNT clip does not show is just how difficult and emotional it was for West to talk about Kobe.

West has had a life of incredible highs, but also more lows and pain than many — abused by his father and battling depression his entire life — and this is another emotional tax on the NBA legend.

Joel Embiid returns to Philadelphia rotation after nine-game absence

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When you saw the image of Joel Embiid‘s dislocated ring finger facing a direction no finger should face, you knew he was going to miss some time (even though he had it taped up and returned to that game). Embiid had surgery to repair a torn radial collateral ligament on the ring finger of his left hand. Ultimately he missed nine games while he recovered.

Tuesday night against the Warriors, Embiid will be back.

He will have a soft wrap on his left hand that has been cleared by the league.

Philadelphia went 6-3 while Embiid was out.

Ben Simmons stepped up — in his last five games (before Tuesday) he averaged 24 points a game on 70.6 percent shooting, plus 10 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game. Without Embiid in the paint or taking up touches, Simmons took over the offense and looked much more comfortable in his role.

However, the Sixers’ offensive rating in those nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA (even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league). Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not.

When Simmons and Embiid share the court this season, their offensive rating is 106.7 — not great, but better than without Embiid playing.

Victor Oladipo returns to Pacers Wednesday, likely off bench with minutes limit

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Indiana has gone 30-17 this season and sits as the five seed in the Eastern Conference — and Wednesday they get their best player back.

Victor Oladipo — the former Most Improved Player and All-NBA team member who has been out for most of a year with a right quad tendon rupture — practiced with the Pacers on Tuesday and, as expected, will make his return to the court Wednesday night against the Bulls.

Coach Nate McMillan would not say how he planned to use Oladipo but, considering the minutes limit, off the bench seems the most likely move. McMillan said the team would revisit the minutes and role after the All-Star break.

While Milwaukee has separated itself atop the East, the next five teams — Miami, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Indiana — are all within 2.5 games of each other and could end up in any order. If Oladipo can return close to the All-NBA form he was in prior to his injury, the Pacers become a big threat to break out of that group. If nothing else, they become a much tougher out in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo out for Bucks-Wizards (shoulder)

Giannis Antetokounmpo
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Giannis Antetokounmpo is on track to repeat as Most Valuable Player.

So, any game he misses is notable.

Bucks:

Expect to see more Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson. With the trade deadline approaching, this could even be a showcase game for Wilson.

Milwaukee is still favored over the Wizards. The Bucks have outscored opponents by 7.8 points per possession without Antetokounmpo this season. They’re deep.

Of course, anything can happen. It’s only one game in a long NBA regular season.

Which might something to do with Antetokounmpo sitting. Even if he plays in Milwaukee’s next game, vs. the Nuggets on Friday, he’ll get six straight days off. That’s a nice break.