MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota was all going in the third quarter on Friday at the Target Center.
Minnesota led the Lakers by double digits as it controlled the color and the overall way the game was played.
Then Los Angeles changed the terms of the competition. The Lakers ramped up their defensive intensity, putting the Wolves in a shaker in the process. Suddenly Minnesota couldn’t play anything that was slightly reminiscent of offense. The Lakers’ aggressiveness also affected their offense, and the game was turned on its head.
Los Angeles used a 24-2 run to turn a 12-point deficit into a 10-point lead. That run was Los Angeles’ 123-111 victory in front of a sold-out crowd at Target Center.
It all started when Anthony Davis suffered an apparent ankle injury that left the star prone under Wolves’ basket. Minnesota played 5-on-4 basketball for the next possessions — a time it was outplayed 4-0. Davis never substituted the game. Minnesota never got going again.
With the win, the Lakers (39-38) moved ahead of Minnesota (39-39) overall. Wolves are now ninth in the Western Conference. Should they end up there, they would need to win two play-in contests to make the playoffs.
Wolves will almost certainly have to split their last four games – worst-case scenario – to avoid such a fate. And an unbeaten finish at this stretch might not be enough to dodge the play-in altogether.
They’re not going to achieve any of that with the basketball they played the last 18 minutes on Friday. When Minnesota was punched in the mouth, he didn’t just blink — he creased. Wolves resorted to an offensive where they didn’t move and just jacked up three-pointers after three-pointers.
Davis went in at the other end, earning hard bucket after bucket. And whenever the Lakers missed, they often grabbed the offensive rebound. Davis finished with 38 points and 17 rebounds. He dominated every minute Rudy Gobert was off the ground, including a stretch in the fourth frame after Gobert hobbled off the ground with an apparent leg injury. Gobert later returned to action.
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