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Five takeaways from the Lakers' loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves

Five takeaways from the Lakers' 120-119 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves

The Lakers (3-13) seemed to have control late in the game against the upstart Minnesota Timberwolves (4-10), but they ultimately fell in the final minutes. Here are five takeaways from their 120-119 loss Friday at Staples Center.

1. The Lakers have played only two teams with losing records this season but have lost both of those games.

Through 16 games, the Lakers have had a very difficult schedule, but falling 101-94 at home to the Denver Nuggets (8-8) last Sunday, followed by the loss to the Timberwolves, shows they aren't ready to compete against good or bad teams.

Minnesota played without key players such as point guard Ricky Rubio, center Nikola Pekovic and reserve swingman Kevin Martin, and yet the Lakers found a way to lose.

2. The Lakers have played about 20% of the season and are now two games behind the Timberwolves for last place in the Western Conference.

Only the 0-15 Philadelphia 76ers are worse than the Lakers. The Detroit Pistons match the Lakers' 3-13 record in the east. The New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets (one of the few teams the Lakers have defeated this season) are just 4-13. The Phoenix Suns (10-7) are the eighth-place team in the west, 6 1/2 games ahead of the Lakers in the standings.

3. Coach Byron Scott was fuming after the game, upset with his team's performance defensively.

"Sooner or later you're going to get tired of getting the crap beat out of you," he said. "You start to man up and do things you're supposed to do. It's as simple as that. You can't play good hard-nosed basketball one night and look at the opponent the next night and say, 'Oh, we have an easy one.'  It doesn't work that way in this sport."

4. The Lakers shot 53.9% from the field and a reasonable 38.1% (eight of 21) from three-point range. They won the rebound battle by three overall (35-32) and five on the offensive glass (12-7).  The Wolves had 19 turnovers to the Lakers' 14. The Lakers generated 12 steals to Minnesota's eight. In three quarters, the Lakers scored at least 28 points (30, 28 and 38) before managing 23 in the fourth. How did they manage to lose with those numbers?

The answer is defense, or lack thereof. The Wolves shot 57% from the field, 55.6% from behind the arc (10-18) and dished 37 assists to the Lakers' 27. In addition to the poor defensive performance, the Lakers missed key free throws, including a pair from Kobe Bryant at crunch time. Minnesota missed only four free throws in 24 attempts (83.3%); the Lakers didn't connect on seven of 22 (68.2%).

5. Jeremy Lin notched a double-double with 18 points and 11 assists with four steals, but Scott pulled him soon after Mo Williams converted a three-pointer, putting Minnesota within three points of the Lakers.

Lin had just missed a long-range attempt before he was replaced by Wayne Ellington. When play resumed, Ellington missed a three-pointer and then Williams hit one to tie the score at 115.

Lin didn't return, and the Timberwolves would go on to score five more points to the Lakers' four. Ellington finished with five points on two-of-seven shooting.

Given Lin's night offensively, was Ellington enough of an upgrade for Scott to justify the player swap? Maybe not, but consider, the two Minnesota point guards combined to score 53 points on 19-of-27 shooting (70.4%). Was there a right answer for the Lakers' coach?

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus

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