It's been almost five years since the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves. If they are to continue their dominance in the series, the Lakers might need to do it without Kobe Bryant.
There's also a chance the Timberwolves could be without their best player in this contest.
A broken nose and concussion could keep Bryant out Wednesday night when the Lakers look for a 17th consecutive victory over the visiting Timberwolves and banged-up star Kevin Love.
The NBA's leading scorer at 28.4 points per game, Bryant is day to day after he was knocked to the floor hard by Miami's Dwyane Wade during Sunday's NBA All-Star game. Bryant, who finished with 27 points and became the all-time leading scorer in All-Star history, saw a neurologist Tuesday and will be re-evaluated prior to the game. He's played all 34 games this season despite dealing with a torn ligament in his wrist.
"We'll be prepared either way," coach Mike Brown told the Lakers' official website. "I know he's tough as nails, though."
With or without Bryant, the Lakers (20-14) will return from the break looking to bounce back from last Thursday's 100-85 loss at Western Conference leader Oklahoma City. Los Angeles is sixth in the West, but only one game behind the Pacific Division-leading Clippers.
"We still have things we have to figure out about how we're going to play and how we're going to execute," Bryant said.
The Lakers have had little trouble executing against Minnesota (18-17), averaging 107.4 points during a 16-game winning streak that dates to a 117-107 double-overtime road loss March 6, 2007. Bryant has averaged 27.2 points during that streak, and had 35 points and 14 rebounds in a 106-101 victory at Minnesota on Jan. 29.
The 16 straight wins in this series are tied for the longest active run of dominance by one NBA team over the other. Portland has also defeated Minnesota 16 consecutive times.
While the Timberwolves would certainly catch a break if Bryant is out, All-Star Andrew Bynum (16.3 points, 12.8 rebounds per game) and Pau Gasol will still be on the floor. Gasol has totaled 53 points on 71.9 percent shooting in the last two meetings with Minnesota.
The Timberwolves beat the Clippers 109-97 on Tuesday for their fifth win in six games overall. Rookie Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley each had 27 points as Minnesota shot 51.3 percent. The Wolves' bench outscored the Clippers reserves 72-11 in the first of three road games in as many nights.
One-half game out of the final playoff spot in the West, Minnesota surpassed its 2010-11 total of 17 wins Tuesday.
"We're feeling good about ourselves," said Williams, averaging just 7.8 points after being selected second overall in last June's draft. "We're getting two games in a row (at Staples Center). It's going to be great. It's another team in our way."
One possible road block facing the Timberwolves is the health of former UCLA star Love (24.5 ppg, 13.3 rpg), who took a shot to the ribs in the third quarter Tuesday and left the court. He returned to the bench about 5 minutes into the fourth wearing a padded shirt.
"I got it X-rayed and everything seems to be fine," said Love, who was held to 10 points for the second straight game and finished with seven boards. "It's going to have a lot of bruising and some inflammation, but hopefully I'll be good to go for (Wednesday)."
Love had 33 points and 13 rebounds against the Lakers last month.
The Timberwolves have dropped 10 straight at Staples Center against the Lakers since a 113-108 win Dec. 2, 2005. Minnesota has not beaten both the Lakers and Clippers in Los Angeles in the same season since 2004-05.