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3 takeaways from Lakers beating the Wolves to advance to playoffs

The Lakers won ugly against the Timberwolves on Tuesday, relying on Dennis Schröder, a stout defense and a savvy approach down the stretch.

2023 Play-In Tournament - Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

It was ugly, it was frustrating and, frankly, neither team probably deserved to win at the final buzzer. But one-off games are rarely pretty or aesthetically pleasing and the Lakers got the job done at the end of the day, knocking off the Wolves in overtime 108-102.

If not for an Anthony Davis foul late, the game would have had a crowning moment with Dennis Schröder’s corner 3-pointer but the game got the messy ending it deserved. The Lakers still took care of business in overtime and are back in the playoffs.

Here are three takeaways from the contest:

Dennis Schröder’s second half

Shout. Out. German. Doctors.

I was likely not alone in thinking Dennis’ night was over after a nasty roll of the ankle in the first half. He barely could make his way off the court and it felt like he was done and dusted.

But he learned LeBron James’ superpower of tightening the sneakers and playing through the pain and delivered an incredible second half. Eighteen of his 21 points came in the second half and overtime and he was an incredible +24 in the final two quarters and extra session.

When he last departed the Lakers, it was after a lackluster playoff performance against the Suns. He exorcised a lot of those demons on Tuesday and was arguably the Lakers best player as they finally made their comeback.

Put his foot in ice and make sure he’s ready for Sunday’s game against Memphis.

Defense down the stretch

The Lakers were supremely unserious in the first half and into the third quarter. The Timberwolves shot 9-17 from the 3-point line in the first half and hit four of their first seven in the third quarter, meaning they were 13-24 from the 3-point line and up 76-61 with 5:59 left in the frame.

From that point forward, they shot just 3-17 from the line for the remainder of the game. In fact, they shot just 3-15 from the field in the fourth quarter and 2-8 in overtime. Comparatively, they had nine turnovers in the same span.

Some of it was the Timberwolves absolutely freezing up in the big moment and having no idea what to run with Anthony Edwards clearly off his game and unable or unwilling to take control of the game down the stretch. But a fair amount of it was superb defensive work from the Lakers throughout the second half.

The same goes for Karl-Anthony Towns, who went from difference-maker to complete afterthought. After scoring on a layup for his 24th point with 2:39 left in the third quarter, Towns not only didn’t score again, he only attempted two shots the remainder of the game.

That’s 19:39 of KAT not only not scoring, but attempting only two shots.

Some of that time he sat with foul trouble. A lot of that time he was very tentative offensively, to say the least. The end result, though, was him not being a factor in any way down the stretch.

The same can be said for Edwards. Though he looked hobbled by a shoulder injury and also took a nasty fall in the game, the Lakers also prioritized him defensively, as head coach Darvin Ham noted postgame.

Of those three makes in 17 attempts from Edwards, all of them were layups at the rim and two of them came in overtime, one on a fastbreak and one when the Lakers conceded a layup instead of a 3-point attempt.

The Lakers did not start with much urgency but when the game and moment called for it, they tightened the screws and clamped down.

Free throws

Coming out of the locker room at halftime, the Lakers had a clear directive of getting to the line. Whether through Schröder or LeBron or AD, the Lakers were going to get to the line.

And while it sent NBA Twitter into a spiral, it was both the right call and a quality the Lakers have had all season. The quality they haven’t always had is accuracy at the line. On the year, they shot just 77.5% at the line. On Tuesday, they shot a staggering 91.7%, making 22 of their 24 attempts.

In the third and fourth quarters, they were a perfect 13-13. The only miss in the second half was the final free throw attempt from AD when the game was already in the bag.

For all the faults this team has, it’s still a savvy one with a penchant for getting to the line, something that should serve them well heading into a series against the Grizzlies.

You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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