Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers Survive Play-in Tournament With 108-102 Victory Over Wolves in OT, Advance to NBA Playoffs Against Grizzlies

The Los Angeles Lakers survived a scare in their win-and-advance play-in tournament game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

2023 Play-In Tournament - Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers started this season with a record of 2-10 through their first twelve games. They finished the season 9-2 over their last eleven games.

In many ways, Tuesday night's "win-and-advance" Play-In Tournament game was a microcosm of the season overall:

The Lakers fell behind early, trailing by double-digits throughout most of the first three quarters, including by as many as 15-points late in the third quarter. At times, they showed signs of life, cutting the lead down to a few points on several occasions only to fall behind again. In the end, they mounted a comeback, surging ahead, only to collapse on the final play of regulation.

Thankfully for the Lakers, much like the final 25 games after the trade deadline, there was still time to salvage what could have been a catastrophic collapse.

The Lakers outscored their opponent 10 to 4 in the five-minute overtime period, surviving a scare from the shorthanded Timberwolves with a 108-102 victory.

"When we went 2 and 10, the analytics side said we had a 0.3% chance of making the postseason," said LeBron James. "But that's still a chance I guess. We turned around our season and gave ourselves a chance to compete for the Larry O'Brien trophy and that's all you can ask for. Through ups and downs we've been very resilient. We find ways to gut out a win…we're always trying to find a way and tonight was another instance of that versus a very good team."

According to Sportradar, the Lakers are just the fourth team in NBA history to start the season 2-10 or worse and still finish with a winning record. The Lakers late-season turnaround was due in large part to a bevy of trade deadline moves that saw the team finish 17-9 over their final 26 games, the second best record in the NBA over that span.

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Once again, the Lakers needed another late surge on Tuesday to salvage their season.

They trailed by 15 points on several occasions during the third quarter, including with just over four minutes left. However, the Lakers went on an 8-0 run to close the quarter, thereby keeping the score close entering the final frame.

For most of the fourth quarter it appeared as if neither team wanted to make the playoffs. Both teams combined to shoot 7-for-34 in the fourth quarter, and committed 40 total turnovers.

The Lakers finally completed the comeback when LeBron James sank a three-pointer with 2:02 remaining and took the lead on a Dennis Schröder three-pointer with 1.4 seconds remaining.

With the Lakers up 98-95, and able to intentionally foul if necessary to ensure the Timberwolves would only get two free throws, a victory seemed imminent.

But as the team has done so many times throughout this rollercoaster ride of a season, another mind-boggling, head-scratching collapse was just around the corner.

Anthony Davis fouled Mike Conley on a three-pointer from the corner as time expired, giving Minnesota three free throws and an opportunity to tie the game.

Naturally, Conley stepped up and sank all three to send the game into overtime.

"That was totally on me. That was a brain fart," said Davis of his foul after the game. "I tried to close out on Mike… But we had to have a next-play mentality and we got it done in overtime. But my brain fart almost cost us the game."

Davis scored three points in overtime as the Lakers held on for the victory. Both teams looked exhausted by the time the final buzzer rang with the home team winning the war of attrition in the end.

"The playoffs are intensified out there. You dive for loose balls, take charges, run guys off the line, try and keep your body in front of them, you rebound, you assist, you basically take the gas tank down to E [empty], and see if there's a reserve tank," said James about both teams fatigue down the stretch. "When you have other guys doing the same thing, taking it down to E, that gives you motivation to get up and you always find a way to make one more play…and that's what we did in overtime."

James and Davis led the Lakers with 54 combined points. Schröder was the MVP for the Lakers with 22 points off the bench, including clutch shots at the end of regulation and overtime.

"He has an ability to make big plays in the biggest moments," said Lakers' head coach Darvin Ham about Dennis Schröder. "His attitude and confidence. He's unbelievable. He's extraordinary. He lives for those types of moments. That's classic Dennis."

The Lakers have now claimed the seven-seed in the Western Conference and will now face the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

"They're a really good team. Very well-coached and very well balanced," said James of the Grizzlies. "The head of the snake is Ja Morant, but they have another all-star in Jaren Jackson…you can't disrespect them or they will make you pay."

The Timberwolves will take the court again on Friday at home in Minneapolis when they face the winner of the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans 9 vs. 10 matchup.

Entering the game, nobody gave the tumultuous Timberwolves a chance to beat the mighty Lakers. Especially not after Rudy Gobert punched teammate Kyle Anderson during the final game of the regular season on Sunday. Less than an hour after that same game, forward Jaden McDaniels punched a wall in frustration and broke his hand.

As the public watched the Wolves seemingly self implode, internally the team used that drama, in-fighting, and turmoil as a uniting force to rally against the Lakers.

Without Gobert, who was suspended for one game for punching his teammate, the Wolves went small and started the game fast and furious.

They had 86 points through the first three quarters and were on-fire from beyond the arc, shooting over 50 percent from three.

"We struggled early. They were able to get out and run off of some of our turnovers. It was hard to get our defense set," said Ham. "Those guys [Timberwolves] played with a ton of pride. That's a hell of a ball club. Down some of their main guys. Nothing but respect for some of those guys. Michael Conley man, it just seemed like everything he threw up went in. His leadership was on full display. The level for which he played at was unbelievable."

Conley finished with 23 points, including six three-pointers and Karl Anthony-Towns led the Wolves with 24 points, but it was all for naught as they ran out of gas in the fourth.

Prior to Conley's three free throws that sent the game to overtime, the Wolves only had 9 points in the fourth quarter and did not make a single three-pointer after the six-minute mark the remainder of the game.

There's no rest for the weary as the Wolves will take the court again in less than 48 hours.

Meanwhile, the Lakers will have four days of rest before they head to Memphis for Game 1 against the Grizzlies on Sunday night.

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