Associated Press3 Minute Read
LOS ANGELES — LeBron James had 30 points and 10 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers claimed the seventh spot in the Western Conference playoffs with a grueling 108-102 overtime victory over the short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA’s play-in tournament Tuesday night.
Dennis Schroder scored 21 points and iced the win with two free throws with 8.4 seconds left for the Lakers, who will face second-seeded Memphis in the first round starting Sunday.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 24 points and Mike Conley hit three free throws with 0.1 seconds left in regulation to tie it for the Wolves, who will host New Orleans or Oklahoma City on Friday for the eighth spot and a first-round date with top-seeded Denver beginning Sunday.
The Pelicans host the Thunder on Wednesday night, and Minnesota must then beat the winner to reach the playoffs for only the third time in 19 seasons.
Anthony Davis had 24 points, 15 rebounds and one tremendously ill-advised foul on Conley, who scored 23 points. Los Angeles still survived its back-and-forth meeting with Minnesota, which gave an inspired effort for the first three quarters while playing without starters Rudy Gobert and Jaden McDaniels.
Gobert is suspended for punching teammate Kyle Anderson during Minnesota’s regular-season finale against New Orleans, while McDaniels is out indefinitely with a broken hand after punching a wall in frustration Sunday.
Los Angeles finally won it with defense, holding the Wolves to seven points in the final 11 minutes from midway through the fourth quarter while the Lakers rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half. After leading for most of the night, Minnesota went scoreless for six full minutes.
Schroder drilled a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds to play in regulation, but the Wolves forced overtime when Conley hit his free throws after Davis stepped on his foot after he had already released a 3-point attempt.
Los Angeles took the lead for good on a 3-pointer on the opening possession of overtime by Rui Hachimura, who had 12 points. The Wolves missed 11 consecutive shots before Anthony Edwards‘ dunk with 2:36 left in overtime.
Edwards scored just nine points — more than 15 below his average — and left the court briefly in the second half to get tape on his left shoulder.
D’Angelo Russell had a nightmare game for Los Angeles against the team that traded him in February, scoring two points on 1-of-9 shooting with eight assists. He was benched down the stretch in favor of Schroder, who came through tremendously in his return from a two-game injury absence.
The game was the Lakers’ first non regular-season contest played in front of a full home crowd since James joined the franchise five seasons ago. Los Angeles spent the 2020 championship run in the Florida bubble, played in front of a half-full arena in its first-round loss to Phoenix in 2021, and missed the playoffs entirely in 2018 and 2022.
The Lakers hadn’t had a full crowd for non regular-season game since April 2013, back when their arena was still Staples Center.
Minnesota coach Chris Finch said he had spent the past two days “sorting through the wreckage, if you will,” of the Wolves’ eventful season finale, which left his team without its best rim protector and its top point-of-attack defender on James in the clubs’ recent matchups.
But Minnesota looked better than the Lakers from the start, jumping to a big early lead before making a 14-2 run to close the second quarter for a 60-49 halftime lead. The Wolves’ lead finally dwindled after Towns left the game with five fouls early in the fourth quarter.