Lakers head into All-Star break on three-game losing streak after 119-111 loss to Timberwolves
As players left the court, their plans for the next few days were already on their minds, some checked in with each other on what foreign countries awaited them, others wished passersby well for their time off.
Lakers coach Luke Walton told Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram that he wished them well during Friday’s Rising Stars game, but he had no intention of watching or even thinking about it.
“I told the guys enjoy the break,” Walton said. “Relax and get your mind and body ready for these last 25 games because where we are now as a team from where we came from to start the season, there’s been a lot of growth and I am really happy and proud of the way our guys have conducted themselves, the way they have worked, the way they have fought through adversity so far.”
The day before All-Star weekend began, the Lakers lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 119-111. They’ll head into the break on a three-game losing streak, this one at the hands of a team fiercely protective of its home court. The Timberwolves have won 14 of their last 15 home games.
The Lakers will go into the All-Star break with a 23-34 record. The Timberwolves improved to 36-25.
Minnesota’s Taj Gibson led all scorers with 28 points while Jimmy Butler added 24 points and Jeff Teague scored 20. Karl-Anthony Towns scored only 10 points, on two-for-nine shooting, but he grabbed 18 rebounds and tallied two blocked shots.
Julius Randle led the Lakers with 23 points, while Ivica Zubac made all eight of his shot attempts and scored 19 points with 11 rebounds in 20 minutes. Ingram and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each added 17 points, with Caldwell-Pope also grabbing 11 rebounds for a double-double.
“I was just trying to be aggressive and lately I haven’t been aggressive shooting the ball, but taking my shots when I’m open,” Caldwell-Pope said. “So tonight I was just being aggressive and taking the open shot. If I didn’t have it, dump it off to the big or just move with the ball.”
With the help of a plucky second unit that outplayed Minnesota’s second unit, the Lakers led for all of the second quarter, most of the third and much of the fourth. But with 8:19 left in the game, the Timberwolves took their first lead of the fourth. Gorgui Dieng hit a 15-foot jumper to give the Timberwolves a 98-97 lead.
On Minnesota’s next possession, Jamal Crawford threw a lob to Butler for an alley-oop dunk that sent the arena into a frenzy.
Later in the quarter, Minnesota began to pull away.
“We couldn’t keep them off of the foul line,” Lakers point guard Isaiah Thomas said.
The Timberwolves shot 15 free throws and made 14 of them in the fourth quarter alone.
“I think we’ve gotten better every single game, every single night,” Ingram said. “I think we found different ways to win different games that we couldn’t do earlier in the season. We definitely got better. The defensive end we’ve been in and out of the top 10, so that’s really good. But overall I think we know we can be even better for the second half [of the season].”
Thomas hopes for relief
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka contacted the NBA about the two technical fouls assessed to Thomas near the end of the first quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans. Thomas played only 4:49 before being ejected from the game and said later that he hoped the league would consider rescinding his technical fouls.
Walton’s father, Bill, was part of ESPN’s broadcast of the Golden State Warriors’ game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Upon hearing that Luke had been ejected, Bill quipped that he had failed as a father.
“He told me that when he realized I had gotten a tattoo, as well,” Luke said. “It’s not the first time he’s failed as a father; it won’t be the last, I’m assuming.”
Like many basketball fans, several of Luke’s friends were amused by his father’s comical broadcasting style. Luke said his phone was filled with text messages offering bemused reviews.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
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