The Los Angeles Lakers took on the Minnesota Timberwolves in a battle of the cellar-dwellers on Friday night and walked away with a 106-98 victory. The tank is dead now that the purple and gold are locked into the fourth-worst record in the league, which means that fans can finally root for wins. Fortunately there was a lot to cheer for in this game, where the defense was suspect and the highlights were plentiful.
The Lakers attacked the basket from the opening whistle, getting their first points from a Ryan Kelly a driving dunk. They followed that up with a fantastic Jordan Clarkson-to-Tarik Black alley-oop and had the Staples Center rocking. Not to be outdone, the Rookie of the Month came back a few minutes later and threw one down himself off of a nice pass from Dwight Buycks.
The Lakers had a 9-point lead at the end of the first quarter thanks to hot shooting from Clarkson, Black, and Kelly. The Wolves made a push in the second behind Andrew Wiggins, who powered his way inside to score 12 points and bring the Wolves to within 5 at halftime. The Lakers were led in first-half scoring by Jabari Brown with 12, while his former Mizzou teammate, Jordan Clarkson, had 11.
The play of the first half went to Tarik Black, who got up to guide home this pass from Jordan Clarkson:
Ryan Kelly continued his hot shooting in the third quarter, connecting on 3 more threes to stay perfect from downtown and push his point total to 19. The Wolves were able to cut the lead to 9 at the end of the third but the Lakers were clearly in control.
The Lakers kept the offense coming in the fourth, with Jabari Brown attacking the basket and getting the foul line at will and Ryan Kelly showing his versatility with some timely passing.
The Wolves simply couldn't keep up with the Lakers, who got whatever they wanted offensively. The Lakers guards attacked the rim well, and whenever the defense collapsed on them they kicked it out for open threes from Ryan Kelly and Wesley Johnson. The purple and gold were also dominant on the boards, snatching 14 offensive rebounds, many of them put-back dunks.
Andrew Wiggins did what he could to keep Minnesota close, but even his packed stat line of 29 points, 10 boards, and 6 assists couldn't get the job done. Wiggins played like a man possessed but he simply didn't have enough help around him thanks to the Wolves' injury-ravaged lineup.
For the Lakers Jordan Clarkson finished up with 18 points, 9 assists, and 4 steals while Tarik Black had 18 points on 8-9 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds. Ryan Kelly also went off for 21 points on 5-6 shooting from three, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists. Kelly has improved significantly since being shifted to power forward, and apparently even his mom agrees that it's the position he should have been in all along.
The play of the 2nd half went to Jordan Clarkson for this behind-the-back dish that is eerily reminiscent of Steve Nash:
Looks like those training session Nash is putting Clarkson through are paying off.
Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill both received a DNP-CD for the game, although both are healthy so it's possible they will get minutes in the final three games of the season. With the Lakers locked into 4th the fans wanted the win and the team delivered. This game that wasn't always pretty but fans got their money's worth with a number of highlight-reel plays.
The Lakers will look to get another win on Sunday when they take on the Dallas Mavericks before finishing off the season with two games against the Sacramento Kings.