Lakers inch closer to final playoff spot
LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant scored 33 points and Antawn Jamison added 17 in the Los Angeles Lakers' 21st consecutive victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, 116-94 on Thursday night.
Bryant and Jodie Meeks each hit four of Los Angeles' 16 3-pointers, and Meeks finished with 16 points. The Lakers (29-30) have won 12 of 17 and five of seven while moving within two games of Houston for the eighth playoff position in the Western Conference with their longest stretch of solid play in this tumultuous season.
J.J. Barea scored 20 points and Luke Ridnour added 19 for the short-handed Timberwolves, who have lost four straight and 20 of 24.
Los Angeles' mastery of Minnesota is the NBA's longest active winning streak in a matchup. The Lakers never trailed the undermanned Wolves in the latest meeting, cruising to their 13th straight home win over Minnesota.
Ricky Rubio had 13 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds, but Minnesota never threated to get its first road win over the Lakers since Dec. 2, 2005.
Andrei Kirilenko sat out for Minnesota with a strained right calf, while Nikola Pekovic scored eight points before leaving with an abdominal strain in the first half.
The Lakers haven't lost to Minnesota since March 6, 2007.
Bryant scored 22 points in a strong first half for the Lakers, clearly focused on scoring while the Timberwolves overcompensated defensively for their low-post injuries. Frequently guarded by Los Angeles native Derrick Williams, Bryant catalyzed a solid all-around game by the Lakers, who finally appeared to become a cohesive team in February.
Bulls 93, 76ers 82
At Chicago, Joakim Noah had 23 points, 21 rebounds and a career-high 11 blocks for his third career triple-double and the Chicago Bulls ended a two-game losing streak.
Carlos Boozer added 21 points and 12 rebounds while Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng had 15 and 12 points, respectively, as the Bulls completed a three-game regular season series sweep.
Clippers 99, Pacers 91
At Indianapolis, Chris Paul scored 29 points, and Blake Griffin finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds to help Los Angeles hold off Indiana's late charge.
The Clippers have won three straight and seven of their past eight.
David West led the Pacers with 22 points, while All-Star Paul George had 20 points and five assists.