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Minnesota Begins Three-Game Road Trip In New Orleans

(Sports Network) - The New Orleans Hornets figure to have an easier time with the Minnesota Timberwolves in town tonight for a showdown at the Hive.

The Hornets had their hands full with Kobe Bryant and the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday in the Big Easy, as Bryant posted 32 points, nine boards and five assists to lead LA to a 101-95 victory.

Chris Paul led the Hornets with 21 points and 15 assists, while David West registered 16 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans, which has dropped two straight and four of five games since a 10-game winning streak. The refs seemed to have swallowed their whistles for the Hornets, as they went to the line just four times, making all four attempts. LA sank 23-of-27 free throws.

"It's hard for a game to be that physical and we only get four free throws," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "I think our guys were competing their butts off tonight and I thought that we deserved a little bit more whatever you want to call it but I think we deserved to go to the line more tonight."

Marcus Thornton had 14 points off the bench and Aaron Gray delivered 10 points and 10 rebounds in defeat. The Hornets had won six in a row at home and will close out a brief residency tonight. They are 20-6 in the Big Easy in 2010-11.

On the injury front for New Orleans, center Jason Smith is questionable for Monday with an illness and has been filling in admirably for injured big man Emeka Okafor.

Minnesota will begin a three-game road trip tonight against the Hornets, Rockets and Pacers, but has lost six straight as the guest and owns an abysmal 2-23 record away from the Twin Cities this season.

The Timberwolves have dropped three in a row overall and 14 of their last 16 games, including Saturday's 113-100 loss versus the Denver Nuggets from the Target Center. Michael Beasley scored 23 points to lead Minnesota, while Kevin Love had 18 points and 19 rebounds for his 36th straight double-double.

"They got the ball to the right people at the right time," Minnesota big man Anthony Tolliver said of the Nuggets. "They played good 'D' at critical times when they needed a stop and we needed a basket."

Corey Brewer had 15 points in the loss for the Wolves, who shot just 39 percent from the field and lost for the eighth straight time at home to the Nuggets. Wolves guards Wayne Ellington (personal) and Martell Webster (back) are questionable for Monday, while guard Luke Ridnour (personal) is probable.

Minnesota was able to snap a six-game slide to the Hornets with a 113-98 victory on Dec. 27 this season in Minneapolis, but New Orleans is still 13-4 in the past 17 matchups in the series. The Wolves are winless in five straight trips to the Big Easy.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.