LAL: 20 Straight Over Minnesota

The last time the Lakers lost to Minnesota came during the 2006-07 season, Kevin Garnett’s last in Minnesota, with the following starting line up for L.A. in a 117-107 double overtime loss:

PG: Smush Parker (24 points, 4 steals)
SG: Kobe Bryant (40 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists)
SF: Maurice Evans (7 rebounds, 4 steals)
PF: Brian Cook (14 points, 8 boards)
C: Andrew Bynum (10 points, 6 boards)

KG went for 26 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Wolves, long before the days of Ricky Rubio and (currently injured) Kevin Love. The last time Minnesota beat the Lakers in Los Angeles? Dec. 2, 2005, when KG had 29 and eight in a 113-108 contest, Kobe just missing a triple-double with 20 points, nine boards and eight assists, and Lamar Odom right there with him with 24 points, eight assists and seven boards.

Bryant is, of course, the lone holdover from those days, and the one constant as the Lakers have reeled off 20 consecutive victories since that loss in 2007, the longest winning streak for one team against another in the NBA.

Instead of Parker and Bynum, Kobe is now flanked by Steve Nash and Dwight Howard as Pau Gasol continues to recover from a tear of the plantar fascia in his right foot. Bryant has been brilliant in leading the Lakers to 11 wins in 16 games, including three straight out of the All-Star break before a stumble on the tail end of a back-to-back at Denver on Monday night. They’re within striking distance of the playoffs, as a result, but have plenty of work left to do.

With 24 games remaining and a 28-30 record, L.A. have little to no room for error as they try to close gaps of 3.0 games on Houston (31-27), 3.5 on Utah (31-26) and 5.0 on Golden State (33-24). Home games against sub .500 teams like Minnesota (20-34) must be turned into W’s.

Mike D’Antoni acknowledged as much, and allowed that he’ll do some scoreboard watching particularly since the Lakers are playing better … even if he prefers that his players keep a more direct focus.

“They can let me do (keep track of the standings),” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “We just need to play and win games. They’re doing a good job of focusing.”

Both Bryant and Nash backed up that sentiment, saying they pay little attention to the standings, spending more time focusing on their own games and matchups with opponents on given game nights.

All three Western teams above the Lakers in the standings play on Wednesday night, with Utah hosting Atlanta, Houston hosting Milwaukee and the Warriors at New York. Of those three Western opponents, the Lakers have two games remaining against the Warriors and one against Houston, while they’re done with Utah.

Of course, if the Lakers don’t take care of their own business, starting with the Wolves, how those other teams do won’t matter.