LOS ANGELES: Kobe Bryant scored a season-high 38 points on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 119-115 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves that halted the Lakers’ 10-game losing streak.
With the victory, the Lakers avoided the humiliation of setting a franchise record for consecutive defeats.
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion with the Lakers who will retire after this season, scored 14 of the Lakers’ last 18 points. That included six free throws in the final 17 seconds to seal the victory as joyous fans chanted his name.
“We needed to get a win desperately tonight,” Bryant said of the struggling side that had lost their 10th on the trot on Sunday to equal the 1993-94 Lakers, who lost their final 10 games of the season under interim coach Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
Bryant hit 10 of 21 shots from the floor, including seven of 11 from three-point range. Guard Lou Williams scored 20 points, guard D’Angelo Russell added 18 and guard Jordan Clarkson finished with 16 for the Lakers.
Forward Julius Randle had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Los Angeles.
Guard Andrew Wiggins had 30 points for the Timberwolves before fouling out with 7.5 seconds left in the contest.
It looked like another tough night for the 10-41 Lakers when Minnesota leapt to a quick eight-point lead.
But the hosts rallied to lead by as many as 16 before the Timberwolves battled back — just as they had on opening night when the Lakers gave up a double-digit lead to Minnesota to open the season with a defeat.
The Lakers took a 92-81 lead into the fourth quarter, but a three-pointer and a layup by Minnesota’s Zach LaVine capped a 21-9 Timberwolves scoring run that put the visitors up 102-101 with 5:15 left to play.
Less than a minute later, back-to-back three-pointers from Bryant had the Lakers back in front and he drained a jump shot with 26.4 seconds left to make it 113-110.
“Tonight (I was) excited to play a little bit more minutes and really go after it,” said the 37-year-old Bryant, who has been slowed by Achilles tendon trouble and a sore shoulder this season. “Just got in a rhythm because of it.”
Harden boosts Rockets
James Harden scored 26 points and handed out 14 assists as the Houston Rockets also gained a needed victory, 115-102, over the visiting Miami Heat.
Despite the absence of Dwight Howard, suspended one game for smacking the arm of a game official on Saturday, the Rockets halted a three-game losing streak.
Forward Josh Smith finished with a season-high 19 points. Forward Terrence Jones added 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench while reserve guard Marcus Thornton scored 18 points.
But it was Harden who keyed the win, passing out eight of his assists and putting up 17 points in the first half to help the Rockets to a 60-55 halftime lead.
“He plays the game beautifully,” Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of Harden.
“His skillset, I think, is underappreciated by a lot of people. People see the scoring, scoring, scoring, but they don’t see the plays that he makes for his teammates.”
Celtics down ‘searching’ Knicks
In New York, the Boston Celtics handed the Knicks their sixth defeat in seven games, 97-89.
First-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points and distributed eight assists for a Celtics team who have now won six of their last seven.
Big man Tyler Zeller led a Boston bench that outscored the Knicks reserves 47-27, producing 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Guard Arron Afflalo led the Knicks with 18 points — 11 of them in the first quarter.
Center Robin Lopez added 17 points and 13 rebounds. Forward Carmelo Anthony recorded 16 points and 14 rebounds — but connected on just four of 16 shots from the field.
“We couldn’t find a combination of guys that could sustain us on both ends,” said Knicks coach Derek Fisher. “We were searching.”
Nor was there relief for the struggling Phoenix Suns, who fell 104-97 to the Toronto Raptors.
Toronto guard Kyle Lowry scored 26 points and guard DeMar DeRozan added 22 as Toronto spoiled Earl Watson’s debut as the Suns’ interim coach.
The Suns, who sacked head coach Jeff Hornacek on Monday, have now lost five in a row.