Rajon Rondo returned to the starting lineup but it wasn’t enough for the Lakers to keep up with the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 120-105 loss on Jan. 24.
Rondo scored 15 points with 13 assists and six rebounds in his first game back after missing the last 14 games with a finger injury.
“He [Rondo] was great,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said after the loss. “He was play-making at both ends of the floor, helping us get organized, getting guys shots, hitting his own shots.”
The Lakers needed Rondo back a few days off a blowout loss to the Warriors on MLK Day. Not to mention, Lonzo Ball was out due to an ankle injury along with LeBron James still nursing a groin injury.
“He came in, stepped up and knocked down some big shots for us,” Walton said about his point guard returning after an extensive absence.
Still, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Lakers’ struggles in the fourth quarter where they were outscored 36 to 23. L.A. trailed 84-82 enter the fourth.
Minnesota started that quarter with a 8-0 run capped off by a contested three from Andrew Wiggins with 10 minutes left. Wiggins made another follow-up jam off his own miss that made it 96-82. The 23-year-old finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
“I did what my team needed me to do.” Wiggins said after the Minnesota’s win. “They put the ball in my hands to go out and make some plays, and that’s what I did.”
Karl Anthony-Towns was also huge throughout the Timberwolves third win over the Lakers this season. K.A.T finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
“We kept getting the lead, letting it go, but we did a great job of finishing out the game the way we needed to.” Anthony-Towns said after his team’s performance.
The 2015 No. 1 NBA draft pick was a big part of Minnesota’s closing efforts. His fourth quarter highlights included a contested, poster-izing jam over two Lakers defenders that gave Minnesota a 102-94 lead with about 6 minutes left in the contest. That might have not been as big as when K.A.T hit a three that put the Lakers down 109-98 with 4:39 left in the fourth.
Taj Gibson contributed big down low for Minnesota too. Gibson chipped in 14 points and 10 rebounds. His highlight jam in the fourth stretched Minnesota’s lead to 12 with 5:30 left.
Moreover, the Lake Show’s struggles from the free throw line and rebounding versus the Timberwolves resulted in the loss. The Lakers were out rebounded 55-39 in the home and gave up they gave up 34 second chance points while only scoring 13 of their own.
“I think they got another extra 30 possessions.” Rondo said about the Lakers performance. “It’s tough to win when give a team that many possessions.”
As for free throws, L.A. shot only 64 percent from free throw compared to Minnesota’s 88 percent from the field. Don’t forget the 19 turnovers the Lakers had which resulted in 34 Timberwolves points. The Lakers only converted 16 points off the Wolves 14 turnovers.
“No matter what you do, you’re not going to give yourself a very good chance of winning a game when you shoot yourself like that.” Walton said.
Otherwise, Brandon Ingram finished the night with 20 points and six rebounds. Despite the outcome, Ingram credited his teammates who were playing through injuries.
“I think it just shows how much they care about the game of basketball,” he said. “…to keep pushing through whatever they have going on and giving their greater good for the team.”
Speaking of the team, the Lakers did get some solid performances off the bench. Center Javale McGee finished the night with 10 and six rebounds. He hit a reverse dunk to bring the Lakers with single digits with 7:30 left but that seemed like all the momentum the Lakers could muster.
Lakers forward Michael Beasley also proved a spark in limited playing time again. He was 2-of-2 with five points for L.A. in the first. Beasley hit a hook shot with about a minute left in third which cut the T’wolves lead to one point as well but it wasn’t enough as Minnesota kept answering.
L.A. started trailing by as much seven, four minutes into the first. The Staples Center didn’t start filling up until later in the first quarter and the Lakers energy matched their fans early. Jerryd Bayless was 3-of-4 from the floor with 8 points in the first.
The Lakers entered the game one game behind the Clippers for the 8th seed and one game ahead of the Kings for the 10th seed. L.A. continues their four game home-stand with a 6:30 p.m. PST tip-off versus the Phoenix Suns on Jan. 27.