LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers had to survive a wild fourth quarter to get there, but they’re officially headed to the playoffs.
The Lakers recovered from a 15-point second-half hole and beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-102 in overtime of the championship game on Tuesday night at Crypto.com Arena. This officially puts the Lakers back in the playoffs and sets up a first-round series with the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies.
The fourth quarter was incredibly chaotic, and it could have gone either way several times.
The Lakers had tied things up after rallying late 16-6 in the fourth quarter, all while holding the Timberwolves scoreless for more than five minutes. This, thanks to a great run for a third-place finish, erased the Timberwolves’ 15-point lead. When James ran out the clock for one last shot, he headed to the hoop and kicked to Dennis Schroeder in the corner – who was completely open and sank the bucket with just over a second left.
After a timeout advanced the ball, Anthony Davis did the one thing he couldn’t do on the final play. The Timberwolves’ Lakers big man fouled guard Mike Conley while trying a last-second swing from a corner that had little chance of falling. That sent Conley to the free throw line for the first time all game. He hit all three free throws and forced overtime.
“I’ve been playing this game since I was a kid. Line up the defence, trust your teammates. [Schroder] James said of the final shot on TNT.
“Too bad AD had a mental fart and screwed up the winner at his game.”
The Timberwolves, who scored just 12 points in the fourth and looked undefeated offensively, struggled in overtime. The Lakers held them up to just four points in the extra period, a layup by Anthony Edwards, while the Lakers moved ahead to win by six points.
“We’ve hit a slump,” said Timberwolves coach Chris Finch, Via Bali Sports North. “We ran out of gas, we were definitely fed up… We should have won this game. All credit to them, they’ve done a good job making enough plays and getting the easy buckets when they need them.”
James led the Lakers with 30 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in the win. Davis added 24 points and 15 rebounds, and Schroeder added 21 points off the bench. The Lakers, who missed the playoffs last season, haven’t won a playoff series since running into the Walt Disney World COVID-19 bubble in 2020. Their series will start against the Grizzlies in Memphis on Sunday.
Towns led Minnesota with 24 points and 11 rebounds, although he did not score in the fourth quarter or overtime. Conley added 23 points and shot 6-of-8 from the 3-point line. While they shot 40% from behind the arc, the Timberwolves committed 21 turnovers on the night. This game marked their 19th game of the season, as they lost after leading by 15 or more points as well.
Minnesota will now take on the winner of the New Orleans Pelicans-Oklahoma City Thunder game on Friday in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves were without it Rudy Gobert, who was suspended after punching teammate Kyle Anderson in the last game of the regular season on Sunday. He is expected to return to the squad for Friday’s game.
Whoever wins that game will advance to the Western Conference Final Playoff Round and face the top seeded Denver Nuggets in the first round.
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