Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Kobe Bryant scored 22 points, dished out 13 assists and had four steals as the Los Angeles Lakers beat Minnesota for a 10th straight time, 104-96, sending the Timberwolves to their 12th consecutive defeat.
Pau Gasol registered 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, who lost center Andrew Bynum to a strained left Achilles' tendon in the third quarter. He'll be evaluated on Saturday.
"We're concerned about Andrew. He could miss a little while," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Lamar Odom had 18 points for the Lakers, who have won five in a row and now lead Denver by four games for the top record in the Western Conference. They also became the first team in the West to clinch a playoff spot.
"It was hard for us to stay focused tonight on what was going on in the game," Jackson said. "We tried to do too much with the ball. We shot poorly. Our defense changed the course of the game."
Jonny Flynn scored 20 for Minnesota, which hasn't won since February 23 at Miami. The Timberwolves had 19 turnovers, leading to 26 Los Angeles points.
"Points off turnovers have been our problem all season long," Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said. "We have trouble handling pressure. It's like starting the game down 20 or 30 points. That said, our guys played really well. They did what I asked them to do. I was happy with their performance and effort."
Two free throws from Flynn gave the Timberwolves a 68-66 edge with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, but the Lakers scored the final 12 in the period, capped by a pair of Bryant free throws.
The stretch went to 15 in a row on a 1-of-2 performance from the charity stripe from Jordan Farmar in the fourth. Minnesota got back with seven, but LA embarked on a 10-2 spurt to put the game away. Odom and Farmar each hit three- pointers during the flurry, which ended with the Lakers holding a commanding 91-76 cushion with 7:47 left. They weren't threatened the rest of the way.
The Lakers were a sharp 12-of-21 from the field in the first, on the way to a 31-20 lead after 12 minutes. The advantage stood at 59-49 at the half.
Minnesota center Darko Milicic, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds, left the game in the fourth quarter with back spasms...Farmar scored 12, Bynum 11 and Ron Artest 10 for LA, which went 29-of-35 at the foul line. Bryant missed just one of his 14 free throws...Kevin Love had 19 points and 11 boards for Minnesota.