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Nash’s return can’t help Lakers avoid seventh straight loss

Kevin Love had 31 points and 17 rebounds for Minnesota, spoiling Steve Nash’s return for languishing Los Angeles and leading the Timberwolves to a 109-99 victory last night that stuck the Lakers with their seventh straight defeat.

Kevin Martin scored 14 of his season-high-tying 32 points in the opening 10 minutes to help the Timberwolves start strong, and the NBA’s highest-scoring first-quarter team surged to a 25-point lead midway through the second period.

Nash had been sidelined since Nov. 10 because of nerve problems in his back. The soon-to-be-40-year-old two-time league MVP had seven points and nine assists in 25 minutes, about 10 more than he was supposed to play.

Steve Blake also returned, coming back from a torn ligament in his right elbow that had shelved him since Dec. 10. He ruptured his eardrum during the game but kept playing on another night of bad luck and bad defense for the fallen franchise. Blake was scoreless in 31 minutes.

Jodie Meeks (sprained right ankle, first quarter) and backup Jordan Hill (headache and neck strain, first quarter) went down for the Lakers, who have been without star Kobe Bryant for most of the season. Pau Gasol sat out with a strained right groin and could be out until after the All-Star break.

PACERS 89, HAWKS 85

David West scored 22 points and Paul George added 18, helping NBA-leading Indiana get the win.

The Pacers snapped a 12-game regular-season losing streak in Atlanta while improving the league’s best record to 38-10.

Atlanta failed to place a starter in double figures. It had won two straight and five of seven.

Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver had nine points apiece for the Hawks, but All-Star forward Paul Millsap went 2-for-11 from the field and finished with seven points.

Teague made a 3-pointer to give Atlanta a 41-35 lead with 1:06 left in the second quarter, but the Hawks were outscored 38-16 over the next 17 minutes.

Cartier Martin’s 3 cut Indiana’s lead to 86-84 with 14.9 seconds left. C.J. Watson and Danny Granger then combined for three free throws to help the Pacers hold on for the win.

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