The Lakers couldn't take care of business, losing to the Timberwolves on the road 108-106. LeBron James tried to tie it in the closing seconds, but the refs called it a long two, and after review they did not overturn the call even though it did look like James’ foot may have been off the line.
It wasn't all negative for the Lakers, as Anthony Davis shined even in defeat. Davis has been in an offensive tear lately, but Saturday night took the cake. He made a top-defensive player like Rudy Gobert look as effective as a turnstile. Davis had 33 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists, a season-high for Davis.
LeBron James was questionable heading into the game with a non-COVID illness, but he battled through it and played on his birthday. He ended the game with 26 points, six assists and three rebounds.
The Lakers will have to quickly shake this one off as they have another game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.
The Lakers had their best start with this new starting five on Saturday. Davis had a stat line in the opening frame that rivals most players' end-of-game stats with 17 points, eight rebounds, and four assists after 12 minutes of play.
It wasn't just the Davis show, the team was making stops, getting out in transition and went on a 15-6 run midway through the first. Minnesota settled down and L.A. cooled off, but the Lakers still held control, entering the second quarter up by three.
They say basketball is a game of runs and the rest of the first half was a perfect example of that. The Lakers went on an 8-0 run start the second and the Timberwolves countered with a 9-0 run of their own. When the dust settled the Timberwolves closed out the half strong and were up 64-59.
First minutes this season of the DLO Austin Vando Bron AD lineup.— Raj C. (@RajChipalu) December 31, 2023
Midway through the third, we finally got to see the Lakers playoff lineup of last season on the court. The result? Mediocre. Not much of note happened, but the sample size this year is small and last year's is large and in big games. We'll have to see if Darvin Ham starts going to it more as we head into 2024.
In the fourth, the Lakers trailed and no one other than Davis had it going offensively. It didn't help that D'Angelo Russell was out for the rest of the night with a tailbone contusion he suffered in the quarter, but nevertheless, the Lakers kept fighting back.
Christian Wood hit a three and James got going and after a free throw by the King, the Lakers were within one with four minutes left.
A Mike Conley three with 36 seconds to go gave Minnesota a seven-point advantage. That should’ve been ball game, but the Lakers never relented and went on a 6-0 run. They would’ve tied the game, but the referees called James’ foot being on the 3-point line. It looked like it was off the line when zoomed in, but the call was not overturned.
James had one more shot to tie it in the closing seconds but missed and the valiant effort ended in defeat.
No moral victories in the NBA, but the Lakers held their own against the best in the West.
It was clear James wasn't 100% and he played like it. The good news is Davis played well, the lineups made sense and the Timberwolves were just a little better down the stretch and relied on their star, Anthony Edwards, to close out the game.
If the Lakers bring this energy and can have James available on a second night of a back-to-back, they can end the year with a win against the struggling Pelicans.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.