The Los Angeles Lakers were back at Staples Center Friday night after a tough road loss to the Denver. The Lakers were looking to end a five game losing streak in which they had been blown out on several occasions. They were facing the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team in similar circumstances. With only four games left in the season, this game could greatly affect the NBA draft lottery fates of both teams.
Injuries have continued to play a part and Jeremy Lin would miss the game due to a knee issue. The starting lineup consisted of the rookie of the month Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown, Wesley Johnson, with Ryan Kelly and Tarik Black manning the paint.
The Lakers first basket came courtesy of a huge slam by Kelly. A layup from Andrew Wiggins and a pair of Kevin Martin free throws put Minnesota up 4-2. The rookies Lavine and Clarkson exchanged jumpers and the Lakers went up 8-6. A solid screen and roll with Brown lead to an easy jam for the big man Black. Clarkson threw up a nice lob pass and Black was on the receiving end as he slammed it home. Kevin Martin hit a jumper, but Kelly converted from the outside as the Lakers took a five point lead. Three straight turnovers ended with the Lakers squandering a shot and a Timberwolves fast break, but Chase Budinger missed the layup, and Kelly made him pay with another three. Flip Saunders called for time as the Lakers were leading 18-12 halfway into the quarter. The Timberwolves missed two shots before LaVine rose for a big dunk, but Clarkson countered him again with a long jumper on the other end. Dwight Buycks entered the game for Brown and hit a shot from the perimeter and Clarkson got a tough layup to go. Saunders called for time again as the Lakers lead was now ten, 14-24. The young guns showed no signs of slowing down after the break as Buycks lobbed it to Clarkson to extend the lead to 12. Minnesota’s offense remained dry, and the home team took advantage as Sacre hit a sweeping hook shot. A three-pointer from Robbie Hummel was the Timberwolves first basket in over three minutes. Hummel made another shot, but Sacre equaled him before Lavine made a shot to beat the buzzer. Going into the second quarter, the Lakers were up 30-21.
Wiggins made a layup for the first basket of the quarter and their deficit was reduced to seven. Adreian Payne hit a pair of free throws after trying to dunk over Ed Davis. In transition, Brown went all the way to the basket for a tough make and got the and-one. An 8-2 run from Minnesota had the score 33-35, and Byron Scott was forced to call a timeout. But the baskets from Buycks and Brown had the Lakers up by seven again, and Minnesota called for time. Brown showed good footwork and converted in the paint again, but the Timberwolves hit two shots to keep within five. The Lakers hit a scoreless stretch, and a couple of foul shots from Wiggins had them within three, 39-42. A good cut from Payne lead to an easy dunk, and the Lakers once large lead was reduced to one. Clarkson made a nice reverse layup to keep the Timberwolves at bay. With three minutes to play, the Lakers were up 43-45 before a timeout was called. Wiggins was effective from the line once again, but Brown beat the shot clock with a layup. Kelly hit a short shot from a nice pass from Clarkson and Brown made two free throws to extend the lead back to five. The Timberwolves turned the ball over with eight seconds left and the Lakers had the final possession of the half. Clarkson found a cutting Black but the ball went out of bounds with 0.1 on the clock. The quarter ended with the Lakers leading 47-52.
Kelly continued his solid outside shooting in the third with a three ball to start the second half. He hit another three, and Black slammed home a missed layup from Clarkson. The Lakers were now leading 49-61, and Saunders called for time. The three balls kept pouring in, as Johnson knocked two down in a row, and the lead was 17 points, the largest of the game. Yet another three by Kelly made for a perfect five of five from beyond the arc, and a fast break jam by Clarkson lead to another Timberwolves timeout. The Lakers were up 54-72. Following the timeout, the visitors went on a run of their own and closed the gap to 10, but Davis hit two straight shots to put the Lakers back up by 14. Wiggins was at the line again and hit one, as his rookie counterpart Clarkson hit a basket on a nice feed from Johnson. But Wiggins went to the charity stripe once more and made both, with 11 of his 21 points coming from the line at that point. Lavine was fouled and made his two shots, and the Wolves were now within nine. Buycks couldn’t make a layup, but Clarkson collected the offensive board to give the Lakers the final shot of the quarter, but they couldn’t convert. Going to the final quarter, the Lakers were up nine, 71-80.
Davis opened the quarter by finishing Clarkson’s miss with a put back dunk. The lead grew to 15 after Clarkson found Brown with a nice behind-the-back pass in transition. The Lakers drew fouls and found themselves making trips to the free-throw line as score became 94-77. LaVine responded with two three-pointer to bring the Timberwolves within 11. After Wiggins converted on two-free throws of his own, the Lakers only led by eight with just under five minutes to go. However,the Timberwolves never really threatened came as Johnson and Black helped bring the Lakers back up by 12. After Black’s basket, the Lakers set a new season high in assists with 32. Wiggins continued to score as the lead shrank to six. Clarkson found Black for another dunk and brought the Lakers back up by eight with 1:22 remaining. The game came to an end with the Lakers winning 106-98.
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