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Short-handed Lakers are routed at Minnesota; Anthony Davis (knee) leaves injured

The Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns, left, works against the Lakers' Anthony Davis on Friday night.
The Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns, left, works against the Lakers’ Anthony Davis on Friday night. Davis left the Lakers’ 110-92 loss in the second half because of what the team called a left knee contusion.
(Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press)

They had already air-balled a free throw, turned the ball over five times and missed all nine of their three-point shots when a bad night in Minnesota got even worse.

Anthony Davis, the Lakers’ star big man, fell to the court and immediately grabbed his right ankle, his foot unnaturally turning outward as he stumbled to the court. On a day when they added two more players to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols including Austin Reaves, the stripped-down Lakers couldn’t afford to lose another player.

Davis ran back onto the court, only to once again limp off of it, this time clutching at his left knee after an awkward collision with Minnesota’s Jaden McDaniels. Davis fell to the floor in the tunnel to the Lakers’ locker room.

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The attrition seemed to catch up with the Lakers, their modest three-game winning streak quickly collapsing after a clunker of a performance marred by another injury in a 110-92 loss to the Timberwolves.

Davis, playing in just his second game after missing two with a sore knee, didn’t return Friday night — one less reliable player for a team suddenly with a serious shortage of them.

He will undergo more testing Saturday following what the team has called a “left knee contusion.”

Lakers big man Anthony Davis is set to have an MRI exam Saturday after he left Friday night’s 110-92 loss at Minnesota because of a left knee injury.

The basketball problems were all fairly obvious. The Lakers didn’t take care of the ball. They consistently failed to block out and got killed on the boards. They missed a whole bunch of shots.

But they also were seriously wounded, six players in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols and another, Trevor Ariza, still unable to play as he works his way back from an ankle injury that’s cost him the start of the season so far.

The Lakers (16-14) still don’t have Talen Horton-Tucker and Dwight Howard. They had hoped Malik Monk would be able to return, but while he was cleared to travel with the team, he wasn’t cleared to play. Avery Bradley went into the protocols on Thursday with Russell Westbrook, and Friday, the injured Kendrick Nunn and rookie Reaves went into the protocols.

“You just got to roll with the punches,” coach Frank Vogel said before the game.

Westbrook, after producing a pair of negative tests, rejoined the team and was able to play.

Vogel declined to say whether his players were asymptomatic or not or how many players have received booster shots. The team is fully vaccinated.

“All I can say is some of our players have gotten the booster shot, and some have not,” Vogel said.

The Lakers announced that Russell Westbrook has cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols, but Austin Reaves and Kendrick Nunn have entered them.

The virus also kept radio broadcaster Mychal Thompson from working Friday’s game and had affected multiple members of the team’s traveling party.

“It’s like a revolving door,” LeBron James said.

“It’s just craziness,” Vogel said. “There’s chaos.”

All of it meant Vogel had to be creative, giving considerable minutes to undrafted rookie Chaundee Brown Jr., who is on a two-way contract, and the freshly signed Isaiah Thomas, who led them with 19 points in his first NBA action since a three-game stint with New Orleans in April.

“When you have a veteran ballclub and you can add a veteran who’s able to mesh pretty quickly because we kind of know what he’s been able to do in this league,” James said. “So you know what you can do with him.”

And right know, the Lakers don’t know much else. They end a three-game trip Sunday night in Chicago — with no real idea of who will even be on the court.

The Lakers' LeBron James, left, is fouled by the Timberwolves ' Jarred Vanderbilt in the first quarter Dec. 17, 2021.
The Lakers’ LeBron James, left, is fouled by the Timberwolves ' Jarred Vanderbilt. James scored 16 points and shot five for 13 from the field.
(Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press)

“It’s craziness,” Vogel said. “I don’t know what the answer is but it’s not like anything I’ve seen before or dealt with before as a coach, coming into games and guys just in and out of the lineups like this. It’s challenging but we don’t try to focus on anything that we can’t control. So, you find out who is in the game, take those guys and go out and win.”

It sounded easy enough, especially considering the Timberwolves had their own COVID-19 issues with second-year guard Anthony Edwards entering the NBA’s protocols on Friday, two days after he made 10 three-pointers in Minnesota’s win in Denver.

The Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving will come back to play in road games, although he still can’t play at home because of New York City’s vaccine mandate.

But the Lakers were quickly pushed around by Minnesota, starting with Karl-Anthony Towns who attacked Davis and the Lakers from the game’s first possessions. At one point in the first half, Patrick Beverley knocked Rajon Rondo out of his way for an easy basket, yelling “Baby” while signaling that Rondo was too small.

Beverley received a technical foul, but it didn’t stop him or his teammates from out-toughing the Lakers all night. The Lakers also were really sloppy on offense — James, at one point, threw a pass off his defender’s head leading to a Minnesota layup.


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