The Los Angeles Lakers were on their way to playing spoiler for a playoff bound team for a second time in as many games, until the Minnesota Timberwolves flipped momentum and took control to run away with a 113-96 victory.
Adding insult to injury, the Lakers saw Kyle Kuzma exit midway through the third quarter due to a mild left ankle sprain. He turned the ankle in the second quarter and initially remained in the game before being ruled out for the night.
The standout rookie had already been playing on a right ankle sprain suffered in the mid-March. He had just two points on 1-for-6 shooting against the Timberwolves, snapping a streak of games with at least 10 points at 20.
Minnesota outscored the Lakers in the third quarter, 29-15, to turn a seven-point deficit at halftime into an 80-73 lead. The Timberwolves cruised from there, leading by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter.
Jimmy Butler had 18 points on an efficient 7-for-10 shooting, while adding four steals in his return from injury. Jeff Teague led Minnesota with 25 points and eight assists, while Karl-Anthony Towns had 14 points and 11 rebounds. All five Timberwolves starters scored in double figures.
When the night began it appeared as though Brook Lopez would power the Lakers to another upset win. He got off to a blistering start but cooled off and finished with 18 points.
Lopez was all the Lakers had to show on offense more than halfway through the first quarter as he poured in their first 15 points. At one Lopez juncture outscored the Timberwolves by himself, 15-14.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s steal and breakaway dunk with 5:04 remaining was the Lakers’ first basket not made by Lopez. His offense was of particular need for L.A., as Kuzma and Julius Randle each only had one field goal and were a combined 2-for-10 through the first half.
Randle offset the poor shooting night in some regard by finishing with 20 points, 10 rebounds and all 10 attempts at the free throw line. Josh Hart had 20 points and 11 rebounds off the bench, and Ivica Zubac contributed 14 and nine.