After a year-long hiatus, the Lakers are back in the playoffs. In overtime, they edged the Timberwolves, 108-102, in the No. 7 vs. No. 8 Tournament game on Tuesday night and will face the second-seeded Grizzlies in the first round, starting this weekend.
On Friday, Minnesota will face the winner of Wednesday’s Pelicans-Thunder game at home for a playoff spot.
Los Angeles star duo Anthony Davis and LeBron James led the way on Tuesday night. Davis was a defensive threat, especially in the second half, and thwarted Minnesota’s offense, while scoring 24 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals. James made stunning decisions (five turnovers) but lost 30 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal. Dennis Schroder added 21 points off the bench and provided some welcome paint pressure.
Both offenses went cold in the fourth, with a total of 31 points, which included two different scoreless droughts of more than two minutes. Some of the credit should, however, go to the defense of each club. The scoreless second stretch was snapped by that triple from Schroder, a presumed match winner with just 1.1 seconds left.
On the inbound play that followed, Davis fouled Conley, who quickly made all three free throws to send the game into overtime.
LeBron: “It’s a shame that AD had a brain fart and ruined their winner.”
AD: “I messed up his winner, I apologize. I really apologize.” 🤣🤣 pic.twitter.com/khlMaLr5Rx
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 12, 2023
In the extra period, Minnesota’s offense remained stagnant. The Timberwolves scored 60 points before intermission, but could only muster 42 in the final 47 minutes. The Lakers didn’t look much better, but did enough to finish the win after trailing in double digits for long stretches of the night.
Minnesota held on to a 60-49 lead entering the break, thanks to Karl-Anthony Towns’ 17 points (5-of-5 shooting), as well as a 9-of-17 performance beyond. from the arc, headlined by veterans Mike Conley Jr. (3 of 3) and Prince Bull (2 of 2). The Lakers defense was scattered this half, but opted to change everything during the game and cut the water from the Timberwolves.
Towns, who finished with 24 points, spent most of the second half on fouls, which stifled his aggression. The Lakers also made a conscious effort to keep his touches away from the edge. Anthony Edwards struggled mightily, scoring nine points on 3-of-17 shooting and missing all nine of his long balls. Los Angeles siphoned off his traffic lanes and forced him to do hard jumps.
Between the second half and overtime, Minnesota went 7 of 24 from deep and often resorted to late prayers as their offensive rhythm dissipated.
Wolves have a chance for redemption later this week when Rudy Gobert is back in the fold after serving his one-game suspension for hitting Kyle Anderson in the Timberwolves’ win over the Pelicans on Sunday.