With Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Brook Lopez all out due to injury, the Los Angeles Lakers were forced to go with a starting lineup that had yet to log any minutes together: Jordan Clarkson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Andrew Bogut.
The absence of Ball and Ingram took some flare out of a Christmas night matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are in fourth place in the Western Conference. In what’s been a common theme this season, the Lakers again remained competitive against a playoff-caliber team.
But all it resulted in was an 121-104 loss, the Lakers’ sixth in their last seven games. They took a lead in the fourth by scoring on back-to-back possessions, but the Timberwolves immediately responded with a 13-0 run and later withstood the Lakers’ comeback bid.
Karl-Anthony Towns did the bulk of the damage for the Timberwolves during that spurt and finished with 21 points, to go along with 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler tied for the team lead with 23 points.
Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler combined for 39 points on 18-of-29 shooting, while Jamal Crawford contributed with 19 points off the bench.
Kyle Kuzma did his part to help fill the void left by Ball and Ingram, scoring a game-high 31 points. He was one of four Lakers to reach double-figures. It was Kuzma’s fourth time in the last five games in which he scored at least 25 points.
Moreover, Kuzma’s 31 points were the most ever by a Lakers rookie on Christmas, and the most by any NBA rookie since LeBron James scored 34 on Dec. 25, 2003.
Jordan Clarkson was second on the Lakers with 17 points, but he needed 23 shots to do so. Josh Hart’s 12 points were his fourth time reaching double-figures in the past six games. Julius Randle brought more energy off the bench, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 19 minutes.
Next for the banged-up Lakers is a game Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, followed by contests with the L.A. Clippers on Friday, the Houston Rockets on Sunday, and the Timberwolves on New Years Day in the second of a back-to-back.
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