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Kobe, Lakers send Wolves to sixth straight loss

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant pulled out another victory for
the Los Angeles Lakers down the stretch. It wouldn't have been
possible without Lamar Odom's contributions before that.

Bryant scored 25 points, including a pair of layups in heavy
traffic during the final 35 seconds, leading the Lakers to a 92-89
win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night. Odom had 20
points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.

"It's great to have a 1-2 punch," said Bryant, who has been
unable to return the Lakers to championship form since Shaquille
O'Neal left. "When Lamar's clicking like that, it makes my life a
lot easier on nights like tonight. I needed guys to pick me up, and
Lamar stepped up and did that and carried the load. Then at the end
of the game I was able to come through."

Kwame Brown had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who
barely avoided their first four-game season sweep at the hands of
the Timberwolves and dealt them their season-worst sixth straight
defeat.

"Tonight we stayed tough and made the plays when we needed
to," said Odom, who had six rebounds and four assists in the
fourth quarter.

Marcus Banks had 18 points for Minnesota, but shot an airball
trying for a game-tying 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds on the clock.
Kevin Garnett had 16 points and 14 rebounds for his league-leading
50th double-double and 21st in a row, extending the longest such
streak in franchise history.

"I should have taken some more shots and I should have been a
lot more aggressive than I was," said Garnett, who was 4-for-14
from the field. "But I'm not going to take anything away from
Kwame. He's out there working hard, just like I'm out there working
hard."

The Timberwolves' 38th loss tied last season's total. It was
their 20th defeat in their last 23 road games and their seventh
straight away from Target Center, tying the franchise record set on
Jan. 10. They are 1-9 in games decided by three or fewer points and
trail the Lakers by seven games for the eighth and final Western
Conference playoff spot.

The Lakers had a one-point lead and the ball when Smush Parker's
turnover resulted in a fast-break slam dunk by Minnesota rookie
Rashad McCants, giving the Timberwolves an 82-81 edge with 2:42
remaining.

Banks followed with another dunk 11 seconds later off a turnover
by Luke Walton, but the Lakers regained the lead at 85-84 with 1:36
left, as Odom hit a 13-footer and Parker converted his steal of
Ricky Davis into a fast-break layup with 1:36 to play.

Garnett's three-point play put Minnesota back in front 14
seconds later, but Walton responded with a 3-pointer from the left
corner and Bryant gave the Lakers a 90-87 lead with a layup after
Justin Reed missed a 13-footer at the other end.

"Probably two or three months ago, I would not have had the
confidence to take that shot," Walton said. "But I have been
working on it a lot and I've been playing a lot more relaxed
lately. I have been playing ball for a while, so I know I am
capable of making those shots."

McCants made a layup to make it a one-point game, but Bryant's
layup with 6.3 seconds left forced the Timberwolves to call a
timeout. The ball was inbounded to Garnett, who spotted Banks wide
open for his missed 3-point attempt.

"It feels good to finally get one of these close games,"
Bryant said.

Odom scored nine points during a 2:17 span, including a
14-footer that capped an 11-2 run and tied the score at 30-all with
8:03 left in the second quarter. But the Timberwolves held Bryant
to six points in the half on 3-for-9 shooting and led 46-40 at
intermission.

Playing without center Chris Mihm (severely sprained right
ankle) and Devean George (sprained right wrist), the Lakers used
their 13th different starting lineup, as forward Ronny Turiaf made
his first NBA start. It was only the 11th appearance for the
23-year-old rookie from Gonzaga, who underwent open heart surgery
last July 26 to correct an enlarged aortic root and preserve his
aortic valve.

The Lakers committed nine of their 17 turnovers in the first
quarter. Turiaf was called for traveling twice in a 34-second span
before the game was 3 minutes old, then committed his third
turnover less than 2 minutes later with a cross-court pass for
Bryant that went out of bounds.

Davis had an embarrassing moment of his own in the opening
quarter, accidentally tipping in a missed 3-point shot by Parker
while trying to swat the rebound away from Odom. Parker scored 12
points, including a spectacular layup on which he went
somersaulting over Reed's right shoulder and crash-landed with 4½
minutes left in the half.

Game notes
Four more Lakers losses would mathematically assure Phil
Jackson of finishing with his worst record in 15 seasons as an NBA
coach. His 1994-95 Chicago Bulls were 47-35 in the second season of
Michael Jordan's first retirement. ... The Lakers are 13-11 against
Minnesota with Jackson coaching the team. He was 17-1 against
Minnesota while coaching the Bulls.