LOS ANGELES – Kobe Bryant has lifted the Los Angeles Lakers onto his shoulders countless times over the past two decades, and he rarely flinches under the weight.
Even during a demoralizing losing streak in his farewell season, the 37-year-old superstar summoned his skills to carry the team one more time.
“You’ve seen it for 20 damn years,” Bryant said with a shrug. “What do you expect?”
Bryant hit seven 3-pointers while scoring a season-high 38 points, and the Lakers snapped their 10-game skid with a 119-115 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.
With Bryant scoring 14 of their 18 points in the final 5:02, the Lakers 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, and Bryant’s vintage performance made sure the record stayed shared.
“You lose 10 straight, that’s enough (embarrassment) as it is,” Bryant said. “You still don’t want to be the team that’s one away (from the record).”
Bryant hit repeatedly from the perimeter in the Lakers’ first win since Jan. 12, evoking memories of the best years for the third-leading scorer in NBA history.
Lou Williams scored 20 points and rookie D’Angelo Russell had 18 for the Lakers.
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.
“Kobe just started making shots,” said Minnesota coach Sam Mitchell, a still-frustrated participant in Bryant’s 81-point game against Toronto in 2006. “I hate him. If I don’t ever see him again, it won’t be too soon.
“He doesn’t score too many points now, so everybody thinks he’s done and all that. He’s not the same Kobe, and he’ll tell you that. But there are nights when he’s feeling good.”
Rockets 115, Heat 102
In Houston, James Harden scored 26 points and tied a career-high with 14 assists as the Rockets snapped a three-game skid.
Raptors 102, Suns 97
In Phoenix, Kyle Lowry scored 26 points, including five 3-pointers, DeMar DeRozan added 22 points and Toronto spoiled the debut of the Suns’ interim coach Earl Watson.
Celtics 97, Knicks 89
In New York, Isaiah Thomas had 20 points and eight assists, and Boston wore down the Knicks.
Trail Blazers 107, Bucks 95
In Portland, CJ McCollum had 30 points and the Blazers got their season-high fifth straight win.