Losing is winning in this topsy-turvy season in Los Angeles, and that was especially true as the the Lakers took on a fellow bottom feeder in the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Lakers looked set to cruise to an easy win early, but a late Timberwolves run sent the game to overtime, where Jordan Clarkson led Los Angeles to a close victory.
A sloppy first quarter filled with transition miscues and passes to spaces where teammates no longer were ended with the Lakers boasting a 24-15 lead after a 16-4 run to end the quarter. Two rookies out of the University of Kansas led the way for their teams, with Andrew Wiggins and Tarik Black scoring 6 points each for their respective teams.
Jeremy Lin and Ed Davis scored three straight baskets on pick and rolls, followed by a Lin breakaway layup at the end of the second quarter. After a quick transition jumper from Zach LaVine, the Lakers led 49-43 headed into halftime. Lin and Davis put their impressive chemistry on full display in the second period, cooking with harmony not seen in a pairing since Breaking Bad's Walter White and Jesse Pinkman went off the air.
Demonstrative of the balance of both teams, or frankly their lack of talent, only Wiggins (10 points) cracked double digits in the first half. Both teams also shot below 50% in the first half. The Lakers turned the ball over 7 times in the first 24 minutes to the Timberwolves 12 giveaways. This was not NBA basketball at it's finest.
The Lakers opened up the third quarter on a 9-2 run, and were able to increase their lead to 73-66 as they headed into the fourth. The Wolves took their first lead since the first quarter with 6 minutes left, 82-81 after going on a 16-8 run over the first half of the final quarter.
Things were all tied at 85, and then Jabari Brown hit a three-pointer, followed by a Jordan Clarkson jumper to make the score 90-85 with under two minutes remaining. Andrew Wiggins missed a three pointer, but then Zach LaVine drew two free throws after a Jordan Clarkson miss, knocking down both to cut the Lakers lead to 3. Tarik Black got an offensive rebound on the Lakers next possession, but turned the ball over, and the Timberwolves capitalized, tying the game at 90 on a Chase Budinger (22 points off of the bench) three-pointer with just 6.6 seconds left. Ryan Kelly missed a three pointer on the ensuing possession, sending the game to an overtime neither fanbase wanted.
In overtime, the teams traded baskets for the first two minutes, with Minnesota leading 94-93 before a dunk from Black gave the Lakers a 1 point lead. A Wiggins layup and free throw gave the Wolves a two point advantage, but a subsequent shot clock violation allowed Jordan Clarkson to tie the game at 97 on two free throws with a minute remaining.
Wiggins began the final minute with a travel, and Clarkson gave the Lakers a 99-97 lead on a layup with half a minute remaining after LaVine forgot to guard him. An elbow jumper from Gorgui Dieng tied the game for Minnesota, but Clarkson was fouled by LaVine on the other end with .3 seconds remaining, giving the Lakers a 101-99 win after the Wolves could not complete a tip play to send the game to a second overtime
Clarkson, who boasted a couple of large scratches on his arms from his journeys into the paint, finished the night with 20 points on 16 shots with 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and most importantly, was allowed to close the game and gain valuable experience in the clutch. Lin also looked good for LA in his second straight start, scoring 19 points of his own before not seeing the floor in overtime. Ed Davis (14 points on 9 shots with 9 rebounds in 22 minutes) showed why he is the Lakers best big man in his limited floor time.
For the Timberwolves, Wiggins demonstrated why he is the future of the league with 27 points on 16 shots, simply gliding around the floor to make play after play. Minnesota made things close at the end, and while I will not say they are tanking for fear of Flip Saunders demanding I be fired, they did show some pretty suspect execution down the stretch with their cobbled together roster.
The Lakers, now winners of two straight with their lottery prospects looking flimsier by the day, now fly to Toronto to face the struggling Raptors in Byron Scott's return to the team.