Lakers’ sluggish start leads to a 114-96 loss to the Timberwolves
The NBA schedule feels no sympathy for a team of young players on their last gasp, a team missing three starters and playing one night after a double-overtime game forced three players to play more than 43 minutes and reserves’ minutes rising into the 30s.
And so a night after Tyler Ennis played 45 minutes, Brandon Ingram played 44 and Kyle Kuzma played 43, the Lakers took the floor against the Minnesota Timberwolves fatigued.
They allowed a 16-0 run to start the game and then never recovered, losing 114-96. It was the Lakers’ seventh consecutive loss and their 10th loss in the last 11 games.
“Definitely a reflection [of the schedule] but definitely not acceptable either,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “We know it’s gonna be a challenge. It’s the NBA, that’s what it is.
“We turned the ball over 24 times. When you try to win on the road, if you’re going to turn the ball over and foul the home team, you’re going to make it pretty impossible for yourself.”
That 16-0 start was the longest run of the season by any Lakers opponent. It also was the second night in a row Minnesota opened a game so dominantly — the Timberwolves began their New Year’s Eve game with a 17-0 run against the Indiana Pacers.
Jordan Clarkson finally scored the Lakers’ first points with 7:46 left in the first quarter. He finished with a team-high 20 with four rebounds and two assists. Ingram added 14 points, and Julius Randle scored 13. None of the Lakers played more than 29 minutes after the high number of minutes many of them played Sunday night.
Missing three injured starters, the Lakers began the trip shorthanded. Randle started once again for center Brook Lopez, who is out with an ankle injury.
Josh Hart started for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who can’t leave California while he serves a 25-day jail sentence, and Ennis started for Lonzo Ball, who is out with a left shoulder sprain.
Down 14-0 with those starters, Walton made the type of substitutions more common in hockey, replacing all five players with Clarkson, Corey Brewer, Alex Caruso, Larry Nance Jr. and Andrew Bogut.
“The second group did a really nice job of at least engaging us in the fight,” Walton said.
Said starting forward Kuzma: “The second group really came in and gave us some life. Second group made the game close, made the game. When we [cut the lead] to five in the third quarter, that was because of the second group.”
The Lakers trailed by 19 points in the second quarter before a 12-2 run brought them within single digits.
Kuzma hit a three-pointer with 9:41 left in the third to bring the Lakers within five points, but that was as close as they got. Minnesota pulled most of its starters with a 19-point lead and 2:18 left in the game.
“A lot of guys played a lot of minutes last night,” Clarkson said. “We got in late ... we were a little fatigued as a team.
“That’s what led to the slow start. … Couldn’t catch the flow of the game early. They made shots. We were turning the ball over. They made shots in transition. Made the game easy for them.”
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