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Jon Krawczynski / Associated Press, Published March 27 2013

Lakers defeat Timberwolves for the 22nd time in a row

MINNEAPOLIS – Kobe Bryant looks just fine at playing small forward.

Bryant had 31 points and seven assists in his first game there filling in for the injured Metta World Peace to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 120-117 victory over Minnesota on Wednesday night, their 22nd straight win over the Timberwolves.

Dwight Howard had 25 points, 16 rebounds, five blocks and five steals, and Pau Gasol added 17 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who had lost three in a row and were playing their first game without their defensive stopper. World Peace will have surgery on a torn meniscus on Thursday, leaving the Lakers to chase the playoffs without him.

Nikola Pekovic had 19 points and 16 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who haven’t beaten the Lakers since March 2007. That was before injured All-Star Kevin Love was even in college.

Down 14 with six minutes to go, the Wolves used “Hack-a-Dwight” to cut back into the lead. Howard went 2 for 8 and Chase Budinger’s putback made the score 114-111 with just over a minute to play.

But Bryant hit a pull-up jumper from 22 feet and his free throw gave the Lakers a three-point lead with 3.4 seconds to go.

L.A. Lakers 26 24 41 29 – 120

Minnesota 23 23 33 38 – 117

L.A. LAKERS (120): Bryant 12-21 4-6 31, Gasol 8-12 1-2 17, Howard 9-13 7-17 25, Nash 4-7 6-7 16, Meeks 2-7 0-0 5, Jamison 6-10 4-6 18, Blake 3-9 0-0 8, Clark 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 44-82 22-38 120.

MINNESOTA (117): Kirilenko 3-8 5-7 11, Williams 6-12 2-5 15, Pekovic 6-14 7-8 19, Rubio 5-13 3-4 13, Ridnour 4-7 1-1 11, Budinger 6-12 1-1 14, Barea 4-9 3-4 11, Stiemsma 0-2 0-0 0, Cunningham 9-15 0-0 18, Shved 2-5 0-0 5. Totals 45-97 22-30 117.

3-Point Goals: L.A. Lakers 10-22 (Bryant 3-7, Jamison 2-2, Nash 2-3, Blake 2-5, Meeks 1-4, Clark 0-1), Minnesota 5-17 (Ridnour 2-2, Williams 1-2, Shved 1-3, Budinger 1-5, Rubio 0-1, Kirilenko 0-1, Barea 0-3). Fouled Out: Blake. Rebounds: L.A. Lakers 58 (Howard 16), Minnesota 56 (Pekovic 16). Assists: L.A. Lakers 27 (Nash 8), Minnesota 23 (Rubio, Barea 7). Total Fouls: L.A. Lakers 25, Minnesota 26. Technicals: Blake, Barea. A: 18,029 (19,356).